This post contains affiliate links on Amazon which means that if you purchase something using one of my links I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.
Every day I strive to be more organized and more of a minimalist. My toddler is 2 years old and in these 2 years I have experienced the devastation of toy clutter. Toy clutter is harmful for everyone in the homes mental health. I am not giving my child a lot of Christmas presents or “toys” because children really don’t need a lot of toys. Also, simple toys are best. If the toy is doing more playing than the child there is a problem.
Buying toys based on your child’s development: Between 18-24 months toddlers may play pretend games like talking on a toy phone or using keys to unlock something. At this stage-toys that actually look like the real deal is helpful (police car, ambulance etc). By 24 months toddlers may start to use representational thinking where a toy can represent something else (this is the stage my child is in so the list below are toys that I am getting him to accommodate this stage-more abstract toys (like plain blocks..they could be a barn, a tower, a space ship, who knows!)
This post contains affiliate links which means that if you purchase something using one of the links I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.
When I was a child my mom always had a ton of art supplies available to me and I think that this played a major role in my passion for creativity. I am a play therapist and I love using expressive arts with children. When I was an a counseling intern I had an internship at a place in Fort Worth TX called “The Art Station” where we used expressive arts with children in therapy. Incorporating art into your home is a great way to help your children express themselves and get creative!
I have a 2 year old and I wanted to be able to do arts and crafts with him as part of our daily routine but I needed to be able to put these crafts away when I did not want him to get into it. This art cart has been the perfect solution!
This art cart is the perfect solution to keep your kiddos entertained over the holidays and also makes a great Christmas present! I plan to use this cart with my child over the holidays and then he will get new supplies for Christmas to restock what we have used.
Paint Bottles I like to use these paint bottles and squirt small dots of a plate and let my child use the paint. The children anti spill paint cups are a nightmare in my opinion because toddlers mix colors and it ruins the paint immediately
These Tempera Paint Sticks are my TODDLERS ABSOLUTE FAVORITE ART MATERIAL RIGHT NOW!!! THESE KEEP HIM ENTERTAINED LONGER THAN ANYTHING!!
These are my favorite craft paper plates. Children can decorate them and make a ton of different crafts out of them but I also use them to put the paint on to give it to my child. I put small tiny dots of paint of different colors around the plate and let my child use that to paint with.
(This post contains affiliate links which means that if you purchase something using one of my links I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you)
How to set up a toddler play space:
Two important pieces of my toddler play space are the Ikea Shelves and the Ikea play kitchen. Both have proven to be very sturdy so far with my rowdy 2 year old boy.
Toddler self serve snack fridge:
Two year olds are all about learning how to do things by themselves and if we can find ways to encourage their independence they will thrive! I found this mini fridge on Amazon and keep a couple of snacks inside so that my toddler can help himself to snacks whenever he wants. The idea is to set them up for success-so I do not put a ton of snacks in there that I would be mad about if he left the door open. In the photo I have tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, and peppers. I also plan to add some cheese sticks.
Toddler Toys: wood or plastic?
I like to follow a Montessori method and they typically encourage wood over plastic toys because they are more natural and do not contain toxins etc. I prefer wood toys because I like to pick toys that are like home decor, because let me tell you YOUR CHILDREN’S TOYS DO BECOME YOUR HOME DECOR! We got some plastic construction toys for my toddlers birthday as gifts so they are out on our shelves right now but I would prefer to swap them with some beautiful wooden versions. My toddler likes these toys just fine though.
So it is best to have a variety of categories of toys: books, puzzles, creative, and then a variety of toys that with a variety of concepts….as you can see here we most have construction/transportation going on here. For Christmas I plan on updating the toys on these shelves but for now this is what we have going on.
Following your childs interests:
Right now my child is all about FIRE TRUCKS, POLICE CARS, TOOLS, CONSTRUCTION, DIGGERS, ETC. It is good to follow your child’s interests and encourage them to explore things that fascinate them.
Including natural elements:
I love the plants that are on the toy shelves. My little guy gets to help water them and he loves this. Incorporating nature is good for mental health and we are digging the plants 🙂 I like to incorporate seasonal natural items as well- this month my little guy can explore the pumpkin: color, shape, weight, texture etc.
In the middle of the plants on the top of the shelf is this aromatherapy diffuser. I like to use essential oils in our play area.
Shop the items in my play area by clicking the links below:
I have been on the hunt for the perfect Montessori tray for a while and I have finally found one that I love.
Click the image below to purchase my favorite Montessori tray for toddlers because it is small enough for them to be able to pick up and carry but large enough to be able to put a decent amount of things on it. It is also smooth and does not have sharp edges.
These trays are great for organizing activities on your toy shelf. You can have multiple trays and put different activities on each. This is a nice way for you to organize your child’s play area and create several different types of invitations to play.
This post contains affiliate links which means that if you purchase something using one of my links I may receive a small commission at not additional cost to you.
Deep breathing is one of the most important skills that we can teach a child to help them learn how to regulate themselves. If your child has trouble calming down or they get stressed easily, deep breathing is a coping skill that can really help them.
They have all different sizes, colors, light up ones, and even glow in the dark. Glow in the dark ones would be super fun to use as a calming bedtime activity. You little one could lay in their bed and take deep breaths with their calming breathing ball to help them get sleepy, how cool!
DIRECTIONS: Start with the ball together. Slowly pull the ball apart as you take a deep breath in through your nose. Keep breathing in until the ball is fully extended. Then breathe out slowly through your mouth. The trick is to go very slowly. Tell your child that you want the air to fill their tummy up as big as the ball is getting.
Check out my previous post about how to teach your child about how their body and brain are like an engine and how we can learn to help our engine run smoothly. My previous post tells all about how to make an engine plate. If you have an engine plate on your refrigerator or classroom wall, you can have your dysregulated child check their engine plate and then use the breathing ball to help get their engine back in the green. After you do several repetitions they can check their engine again to see if they feel better. Ask them how their body feels. Depending on their mood you might say “Do you still feel like you could bounce off the walls, do you still feel very angry, do your fists still feel really tight or does your body feel more relaxed?”.
I would love to see how you and your little ones practice deep breathing with your spheres! Check out my instagram account thewholekidandkaboodle and post pictures of your breathing ball fun and #kaboodlebreathingballfun and tag @thewholekidandkaboodle
I first learned about engine plates when I was studying Child Development at Texas Christian University’s Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development. I am so grateful that I got to participate in several TCU Hope Connection Camps (therapeutic day camps for internationally adopted children). Engine plates were a very important tool used at the camps to help children regulate. The engine plate idea comes from The Alert Program which is a program used to teach children about self regulation.
What is self regulation:
Self regulation basically means being able to control one’s behavior, emotions, and thoughts. It is the ability to manage disruptive emotions and impulses.
Engine plates can be an extremely useful tool in helping children who have experienced trauma learn self regulation but engine plates are also AWESOME for helping all children and adults!! Children 3 and up can understand the engine plates as long as you explain them simply. (I have often explained to little ones that the color blue is like EEYORE, green is like WINNIE THE POOH, and red is like TIGGER (or use a show that they like to help explain) With children under 3 you can use the engine plates to remind you that you and your little one need to regulate your engines.
After working with parents and teaching parenting classes as well as being parent myself, I have realized that the #1 trick to helping your children have better behavior is learning how to regulate yourself so that you can better serve your children.
The ideas below come from The Alert Program and The Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development and their Trust Based Relational Intervention Model.
“Misbehavior” is often dysregulation.
Instead of viewing children as misbehaving, it can be helpful to look at their behavior and ask if they might possibly be dysregulated. If it is that they are dysregulated, we can figure out how to meet their needs in order to help them regulate.
How to use engine plates to teach children to be aware of their internal states:
Let your child help you make their very own engine plate. All you need is paper plates, markers, brads, and black construction paper for the arrow. (supplies are listed and linked below. I highly suggest parents make one for themselves as well (modeling is the best way to teach!) Pick a time your child is calm, rested, and fed to explain to them about how engine plates work. Tell them that your body is like an engine.
Sometimes your engine is running on RED: TOO HIGH (OR FAST) (I learned not to use the “high” term when working with substance abuse population and changed it to “fast” instead).
If your engine is running on RED this might mean that:
-You are feeling super super HYPER, you might have so much energy you feel like you could bounce off the walls, you might be running all over the house, you might be jumping up and down
-You might be ANGRY, you might feel so mad like you could punch something or like you might explode, your fists might feel tight, all the muscles in your body might feel tight
-You might be so hungry you are feeling angry
-You might be so tired that you are feeling so cranky
-Children who have experienced trauma often have overactive fear response systems and their brain may be triggered throughout the day because they are feeling scared.
-You might be so excited about something (even things that are exciting and positive like moving into a new house or going on a trip to disney world can register as stress in the brain and stress chemicals might be released in the brain) (like why you can’t fall asleep the night before you go to disney land etc)
If your engine is running on GREEN this might mean that:
-You feel just right, you feel calm, relaxed, ready to learn, able to concentrate, your tummy is fed, you have gotten the right about of sleep, you have had ample time to play
-The muscles in your body feel loose and relaxed
-You feel happy
If your engine is running on BLUE this means that:
-You may be feeling tired
-You may be feeling lonely, sad, or worried
-You may be hungry and feel so weak that you feel like laying down
-You might be thirsty
After explaining to your children what each of the colors mean then you want to teach them strategies to use when they realize their engine is running on red or blue to help get their engine back in the green.
Teaching coping skills:
HOW TO GET YOUR ENGINE OUT OF THE RED:
-Am I hungry? Have a healthy snack! Am I thirsty? Get a drink of water!! (Often children get dysregulated when their blood sugar is low or they are dehydrated. Children should have a healthy snack every 2 hours and their pee should be almost clear in color) ***TIP: keep a basket of healthy snacks and water bottles readily available in the home or classroom for children to get whenever they need it.
-Take deep breaths
-Do some jumping jacks, run a lap, listen to music, draw or color, play with play doh
-Push a wall (stand against a solid wall with knees slightly bent) and push the wall as hard as you can and count to 10. Repeat until you feel better. Take deep breaths.
-Do a chair push up (can be done in a school desk, hold yourself up in your chair or your desk using your arms)
-Do a chair pull up (pull up on the bottom of your chair)
-Squeeze play dough, tear paper, punch a pillow (safely),
-Use a calming glitter bottle to help aid in taking deep breaths
*Have your child try different strategies and ask them what works best for them. Each child is different and some strategies will work better than others for some kids.
HOW TO GET YOUR ENGINE OUT OF THE BLUE
-Do I need a nap? Do I need a snack? Do I need a drink of water?
-Do I need some love and support? a hug? A friend to talk to?
-Maybe I need a happy book or music
-Do I need someone to sit with me for some companionship
How to use engine plates in the home:
Keep engine plates in the areas of your home that you are in most often. For my family, the kitchen is the center of everything so we keep our engine plates on the refrigerator. Throughout the day, take your child to their engine plate and ask them to examine where they think their engine might be at. First you might show your child how you are examining your own engine. “Mommy’s engine is running on blue because mommy is very tired and hungry”. Then you might say “Mommy needs to get a healthy snack and have a nap” (or coffee, lets be real). Or maybe you say “Mommy’s engine is running on red because when you yell and scream in the house it makes mommy feel stressed” (if this is the case, perhaps the child’s engine is running on red as well and you might say, I wonder if your engine is running on red too, maybe it would help if we went to the park to get some of your energy out, or maybe it would help if you did some jumping jacks or hopped like a bunny 10 times, do a wall push, carry a heavy bag of beans etc).
The important thing is to help your child become aware of their internal states. As a parent I am always checking my engine mentally. If I notice that I am getting very frustrated with my child I start to realize that maybe my engine is out of whack and I need to meet my bodies needs in a certain way. (this might mean, going to bed earlier the that night or increasing self care)
I would love to see how you use your engine plates in your homes! Please take pictures and tag me on instagram: @thewholekidandkaboodle and use the hashtag #engineplatesforthewin
How to use engine plates in the classroom:
Engine plates can be used in schools, daycare settings, residential treatment programs, etc. to help teach children self regulation.
Have your students each make an engine plate. Teach them what each of the colors mean. Hang the engine plates up in your classroom or have each child keep their engine plate at their desk. Create times throughout the day to have your children check their engines and evaluate how they are feeling. Allow your children to keep water bottles at their desk and have healthy snacks throughout the day to keep their blood sugar regulated. Allow children to have physical activity breaks throughout the day.
If you have a calm down corner in your classroom (hopefully you do!) then an engine plate is a perfect thing to add to your calm down corner.
If you are a teacher you might have each child create an engine plate and send directions home with the parents on how to use them at home. Getting teachers and parents to use the same behavior management strategies will be very helpful.
Engine plates can be used as an alternative to classroom behavior management strategies such as behavior charts. I am not a fan of behavior charts because often the same children are the ones who are struggling with difficult behavior. These children rarely get stars, coupons, prizes, etc because they are the ones who really need help learning how to regulate. If you are looking for new behavior strategies to use in your classroom I highly recommend checking out The Trust Based Relational Intervention Model for Classrooms.
I would love to see how you use your engine plates in your classrooms! Please take pictures and tag me on instagram: thewholekidandkaboodle and use the hashtag #engineplatesforthewin
Engine plates should never be used to shame children!
This should be a playful and positive approach to tackling difficult behaviors. A child should never be shamed for being “in the red or being in the blue”. Do not send notes home to parents explaining that the child was bad, you do not know what type of punishment children receive when they get home. Children deserves a fresh start when they get home. They shouldn’t have to get home and start out on a bad note at home because they had a rough day at school. In order for children to recharge for the next day of school they need to go home, play, and rest (not be scolded and punished). The goal is to help children become aware of their internal states and teach them coping skills for getting their bodies and brains back into the green into a calm, focused, and able to learn state.
This post may contain affiliate links which means if you purchase something using one of my links I may receive a small commission at not additional cost to you.
We had so much fun making sensory soup. This is a perfect Valentines activity that engages the senses. It smells delicious too! You little one will have so much fun stirring it up and smelling it! After we got done mixing it all up we then poured it into our bathtub and made a big bath of rose bubble fun. This activity kept us busy all morning! (with a toddler that is a total win!) I let my little guy throw the unicorns bath toys in the bath tub for even extra fun!
Click on the images below to purchase ingredients similar to what we used in our Rose sensory soup:
*This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you purchase something using one of my links I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Did you know that you can prevent/solve many of children’s difficult behaviors by engaging the senses?
Aside from the senses that are often talked about: smell, touch, taste, hear, and sight, there are some other very important senses that play a role in our daily life.
I created a gross motor room in my house for my child to get out his extra energy. Some of these activities address the proprioceptive sense and the vestibular sense. Proprioceptive input helps children’s brains calm and organize. Our Vestibular system deals with inner ear fluid and helps us know where we are in space. With all activities below, pay attention to your child’s cues. Sometimes a child can get dysregulated by too much of certain stimuli so always pay attention to how your child is acting and stop activities if they seem to be getting dysregulated.
Click on the link below to purchase the mats we used:
They are awesome for helping your little one get their energy out before naps and bedtime and provide an excellent gross motor exercise activity on rainy or cold weather days where outside play is not an option.
If you click on the images in this post they will take you to amazon to purchase the item if you would like to.
Here is a tunnel similar to the one we have:
This slide is on my wish list:
This one is cool too:
This is a great climber as well:
Jumping on a trampoline provides children with great proprioceptive input and gets their energy out!
If you have hardwood floor I suggest using a mat underneath like this one:
A mat like the one below is also good too add for some extra cushion:
A large ball is fun for little ones to roll and roll on: (proprioceptive input)
I am obsessed with this ball pit: (proprioceptive input)
Rockers like these would be great: (vestibular input)
A sit and spin is also a good addition: (vestibular input)
This swing is awesome: (but it does say age 3 and up) (vestibular input)
This crash pad is perfect for jumping onto: (your child can even jump from the slide backward onto this crash pad)
If you have a big enough space, this trampoline is amazing!
*This blog post contains affiliate links which means if you make a purchase using one of my links I may receive a small commission at no cost to you. Thank you <3
Valentines Pom Pom Scoop:
These Extra Large Valentines Pom Poms are perfect for toddlers who still put things in their mouth because they are not a choking hazard. They are great for scooping and transfer work.
Valentines Day is a perfect time to teach your toddler all sorts of things! Some concepts you can introduce to your toddler are the heart shape, the color RED, color PINK, etc.
The sensory table below is the Ikea Kallax Sensory table and you can purchase it on Amazon here.
Valentines Duck & Pom Pom Tray
Another activity I created for my toddler is this Valentines duck and pom pom pour activity. Some activities you might try with this tray: count number of ducks, sort by color, separate ducks from pom poms, transfer from bucket to tray, what sound does a duck make? Your little one can use tongs to transfer objects to the bucket for more complicated fine motor practice. You can even add water for more sensory fun!
Let your little one have fun scooping, counting, and color sorting these Valentine colored pom poms. These pom poms are cute also. I have also created a therapeutic activity with this tray. Click here (coming soon but in the mean time go to my Instagram thewholekidandkaboodle for directions on how to Teach Your Child Pom Pom Soup Deep Breathing to help combat your child’s excess energy, stress, hyperactivity, and problem behaviors.
Looking for an edible sensory tray filler?
You can click on the images below to purchase these edible sensory bin fillers on amazon:
Here are some Valentines Day sensory bottles that I made:
Below I have linked some of my other favorite craft items to buy for Valentines Day crafts & sensory bottles: just click on the image to purchase from Amazon!
These pipe cleaners and pom poms are fun sensory bin fillers!
Put a piece of scotch tape on the back of these foam hearts and let your toddler stick them to the wall or the floor. They will get a kick out of this!
Put this washi tape down on the table and let your toddler peel it off…loads of entertainment and great fine motor skills practice!
These foam stickers are perfect for helping little ones with their fine motor skills practice. The doilies can be glued onto paper for fun toddler art work!
I am obsessed with these heart shaped foam confetti! These would be awesome for sensory bin filler!
This heart shaped wooden spoon would be so fun to stir a sensory bucket filled with all kinds of valentines day filler or letting your little one help out with valentines day baking!
This valentines baking mold is so cute! It would be fun to bake in but also use to separate pom poms by color or hold valentines stickers and pom poms.
These hearts would be fun inside a sensory bottle!
These bottles are perfect for sensory/discovery bottles because they have a wide mouth at the top so you can fit decent sized objects inside.
This extra fine glitter is perfect for making valentines sensory bottles.
These heart erasers would be cute inside a sensory bottle, just add rice!
These rose petals would be fun sensory bin filler.
These felt balls are awesome for scooping, sorting, and using as sensory bin filler.
This Grimms wooden heart set is on my wants list!
These wooden beads would be super cute in a sensory bottle mixed with some more colorful plastic beads.
These candy hearts are what I used in my sensory bottle that I mixed with rice. My toddler likes to shake it and hear the sound it makes.
These are some of my favorite Valentines books:
Fine Motor Skills Activity
I found the velvet rose at the dollar store and then paired with our HABA toy :
Below you can see a photo of my 16 month old’s Valentines themed play shelves:
Here are some toys similar to the ones on my Valentines shelf that would be super fun:
*This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using my links.
These sensory bottles are a great way for your little one to explore and discover christmas ornaments and christmas trees without actually touching the tree! Toddlers have a natural inclination to explore everything and this will help fulfill their need!
Click on the image below to purchase the bottles I used to make these sensory bottles! What I like about these bottles is the whole at the top is large enough to put fairly good sized items like these mini christmas ornaments.
I used mini christmas ornaments like these to fill the bottles
You could also use Christmas bells!
I used Christmas trees like these to fill one of the bottles:
You can also add rice to any of the bottles for a little extra noise!