Cool Find: Toddler Sand Tools



I’m planning for the boys’ easter baskets to simply be some sand/water toys and tools. And a little chocolate, but mostly just a couple of toys.

The weather will be warm enough to finally play outside with the water table. And if the enthusiasm with which they’ve been going after the dog bowl is any indication, they absolutely cannot WAIT to get their hands wet.

What I’ve already found, though, is that most of the readily-available sand toys are too big for a young toddler to easily play with. At the sand space at the park last weekend, Felix picked up a shovel with a head bigger than his own. Frustration followed. No good.

Some alternatives I’d considered:

  • Kitchen utensils. Sure, I have some they could use, such as spoons and measuring cups, but I’d prefer dedicated play stuff so I can keep my dedicated kitchen stuff.
  • Bath toys. While they have some cups and such in the bath, I think they’d prefer that those remain available for every bath time.

Enter these great “Sand Tools” that I spotted (ok, more like boughted, amirite?) at Michael’s today.

They get a demerit for being plastic.

But they get credits for being only about 6 inches long and having really good proportions for little hands just developing fine motor skills.

Give them another credit for being “just” $4. Sure, I had a flash of panic in the store because $4 felt like a lot compared to the thrift prices I prefer. But cooler heads prevailed, and i rationalized that $4 for a 4-pack still clocks in around dollar store territory, making them reasonable enough. It is a holiday, after all, said Scrooge McMom.

Let’s add one more credit for being colored, packaged, and sold in a gender-neutral style, just because so damn few things are, and especially at the cheapest end of the spectrum.

I only bought one set for them to split, but if they work as well as I expect, I’ll be back in a month to find another so everybody can have plenty to choose from.

For others interested in tracking these down, I found them hanging on a lonely strip of impulse buys just before the checkouts, not part of any larger seasonal or thematic display.

As for you: seen any good buys lately? Bonus points for links and/or samples. 🙂

Recipe: Toddler Muffins

All the whole-grain, none of the gluten OR the mess. Easy to make, easy to eat. We all need more easy in our lives!

Toddler Muffins

adapted from Oatmeal Banana Muffins at Eat Drink Pretty)muffins_edited
yields 48 mini muffins, which freeze and reheat beautifully

Preheat your oven to 400ºF. Lightly grease a mini muffin pan with cooking spray or use liners.

In the bowl of a large food processor, grind 2.5 cups old-fashioned oats until fine.

Add the following dry ingredients into the food processor and pulse a few times:

  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 0.5 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 0.5 cup sugar

Finally, add the following wet ingredients into the food processor and blend until thoroughly mixed:

  • 2 very ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 0.5 cup plain Greek yogurt (regular yogurt works too, but I like the protein in Greek)
  • 0.25 cup canola oil
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

Use a small ladle or big spoon to fill the muffin cups about 2/3 full.
Bake 10-20* minutes, or until the tops turn a bit golden and spring back when touched.

*Point of contention: Original recipe recommended cooking them for “8-10 minutes.” But mine always take 20-22 minutes. I cook two 24-cup mini muffin pans at the same time. So if you’re baking in smaller or fewer pans, maybe it will take less time?

In any case, when your muffins are done, cool them for a few minutes in the pans, then remove and cool completely before freezing.. Store in airtight container on counter or in fridge.

Variations:

  • Use 0.5 cup less oatmeal (so only 2 cups) and add 0.5 cup fruit or vegetables (fresh, defrosted-frozen, or rehydrated-dried) such as blueberries, dates, raisins, or carrots.
  • You can substitute applesauce for the oil, but (1) kids need fat and (2) the bit of oil gives the muffins a better texture and easier release from the pan.
  • You can probably substitute most sweeteners for the sugar.

Backstory

About the time the boys turned a year old, they got really into self-feeding. Which is a nice way of saying that pretty much overnight, they began flatly, and loudly, refusing everything I offered them on a spoon.

And pretty much overnight, I got really REALLY sick of the mess created by their attempts to self-spoon their morning oatmeal.

Then, from somewhere in the foggy depths of my memory, I remembered the baked oatmeal that KK used to eat almost every day.

I could make something like that for the boys! No more oatmeal hairdos before 8am!

HALLELUJAH.

2014.09.15 Felix try muffins first time (1)

This is the recipe that has evolved over the last few mess-free months. We make a batch of muffins (48 minis) every week or so. They’ll each eat 3 or 4 muffins most mornings. The hardest part of making these is timing the ripening of the bananas, because the grocery stores seem to specialize in stocking only the greenest they can find.

I use two Kitchenaid 24-cup silicone mini muffin pans (thrifted), I can’t find the exact ones, but they look like this. The silicone makes it really easy to pop the muffins out, and there’s no need for paper liners. They’re also easy to clean, either by hand or in the dishwasher.

emerson eating muffins

 

I did a thing! Toddler art gallery

For months and months, I’ve been looking for a way to display artwork at the boys’ eye-level.

Unfortunately, “eye-level” means it would also be within their arms’ reach. Which means anything left unattended would very shortly end up in their mouths and on the floor. Likely in many sharp little pieces.

No deal. The Van Goghs and Rembrandts and Monets would have to wait.

But wait!

Serendipitously, I got lost in Target, one day scanning aisle after aisle for trash cans. (How can you hide a bunch of trash cans? They’re as big as…well.)

In my search, I found this nifty little undermarketed artwork holder that showed promise.

I forgot to take a picture of the package and Target's own website doesn't who it. Found this one on ebay.
I forgot to take a picture of the package. Found this one on ebay.

No glass, no hard plastic even, and it’d be easy to switch out images every so often, without having to take it off the wall. And only $10!

Did I mention “undermarketed”? Check out Target’s own web presence:

Targetscreengrab
Nothing says “celebrating the colorful creativity of childhood” like this paen to bleakest minimalism.

I promptly bought it, brought it home, and lost it for 2 months.

Getting warmer

The recent playroom expansion gave us more wall space and the perfect excuse to find and install the artwork holder.

For the first fill, I found a cat calendar at Goodwill for $1, and a puppy one at Target’s dollar spot for $3ish. Cut some of the cutest down to fit the pockets and hung the whole thing up with some Command poster strips. Et voila!

playroomartFramers
Hoity, meet toity.

 

But what did the critics think?

playroomartFJrx
Felix approved of the way the display validated photography’s long-acknowledged power to mirror both the face of the world and of the most important things in the world: dogs.

 

playroomartEJrs
Emerson noted that the gallery was by turns euphoric and despairing, prey to utopian optimism or deep spiritual disarray, depending on whether you were a dog person or a cat person.

And finally, here’s an overly-long video of them worshiping at the quadruped shrine.

Verdict: I did a thing!

Have you done anything lately? Tell us about it!