Empower Your Toddler With a Visual Schedule

Have you ever thought about the sheer lack of control toddlers have over their day?  They are typically told when and what to eat, what to wear, how to act, when they can be loud, when to be quiet, when to sleep, when to wake up…the list goes on and on and on.  We literally control every single aspect of their lives.  Is it really any wonder that toddlerhood often brings tantrums?  At this time in their life when our growing babies are yearning for ever-increasing independence, most parents are yearning for compliance.

If you have been around me at all, you’ve probably heard me utter the term “respectful caregiving.”  Respectful caregiving involves viewing babies and children differently than the mainstream and it warrants its own blog post (or many blog posts!) with details and examples.  That post is in the works!  In short, what respectful caregiving means to me is viewing children as whole people from birth.   While this includes many things, a few of them are: including them in age-appropriate decisions and day-to-day happenings, explaining everything that is going to happen to them, treating them the way you would want to be treated, and accepting and empathizing with their feelings.

One way to put respectful caregiving into action is to provide your toddler with a visual schedule of their day.  Knowing what is happening “next” helps young children make smoother transitions through the day and gives them a sense of control over their lives.  Stella thrives when she knows our plan for the day.  This is especially true if we are going to be doing something out of our normal routine, but even on the days we are staying home, she does best when we talk about what we’re going to do.  For all of these reasons, I decided to create a visual daily schedule for her.

I totally obsessed over how I wanted to do this for waaay too long instead of just getting it done so we could start using it!  I’m pretty detail-oriented (obsessed?) about certain things and that can be a blessing at times and a major pain at others!

Anyway, I used Pages to create an 11×17 document for the layout of the day.  I had it printed in Holton at Marketing Concepts — it is great quality and the price was very, very reasonable!


I used Google Image Search to find clipart, created the activity/routine cards in Pages, and  printed all of the the cards on photo paper.  I laminated everything, cut out the activity cards, and applied Velcro dots.  I laminated an extra 11×17 sheet of paper to store and display the activity cards that aren’t in use. I will probably have to use the back of it, too, because there are at least twice this many cards!


Here’s the finished product:


I forgot to print a “Breakfast” card!  Grrr!  Of all the cards I made, I forgot the one that starts our day!  Part of me wanted to use an entire sheet of photo paper and a laminator sheet for ONE card (there’s that obsessiveness!).  Don’t worry, I talked myself out of being so wasteful and decided to just wait until I have something else to print and laminate 🙂 Until then, it WILL drive me nuts!

I anticipate Stella loving this!


Painting with Textures

Today, we had fun painting with different items I found around the house — a rubber basting brush, empty toilet paper roll, loofah, and a regular paintbrush.  Stella loved this!  I offer paint pretty often, but she usually doesn’t show much interest.  If she does, it’s only for a minute or so.  She stayed engaged in this for much longer.

She was really interested in learning colors a month or so ago, picked it up pretty quickly, and has been spontaneously naming every color she sees since then.  I gave her blue and yellow paint for this activity and she began noticing excitedly that it was turning green when she mixed them.  It’s really amazing what kids can learn all on their own when you let them lead.



Her “Little Helper Stand” is coming in so handy!  She loves standing on it whenever we are in the kitchen.  Whether she’s playing, helping, or eating, it gets a lot of use!


A less messy painting option is watercolors.  I wouldn’t have thought to use watercolors with a young toddler, but my mom has been letting Stella play with them at her house and she seems to really enjoy it.  I’m going to get some for her to use at home.  My mom adds a couple of drops of water to the colors so Stella just has to dip the paintbrush in.  Oh…and if you’re picky about the watercolors getting mixed with different colors in the container…well…you might have to get over that first 🙂

Ball Pit Fun!

Lately, Stella has been really interested in throwing, catching, and rolling balls.  She throws them all around the playroom and walks or crawls after them, often giggling.  I was thinking of ways to expand on her interest and I remembered seeing a baby pool ball pit over at Play at Home Mom a long while ago.  I jumped on Amazon Prime and ordered a small inflatable baby pool and a set of 100 ball pit balls! I set it up in the playroom last night and Stella discovered it this morning.  She was thrilled, to say the least.  It’s pretty much the only thing we played with all morning.

She would wave her hands through the balls and say, “Splash!” as if she remembers splashing in a pool like this last summer! (I wouldn’t put it past her — this girl amazes me with her memory every single day!)

She would wave her hands through the balls and say, "Splash!" as if she remembers splashing in the pool last summer!

She laid down and told me she was going “night night” in the ball pit. LOL 🙂

She said she wanted to go "night night" in the ball pit. LOL :-)

I plan to add items like ramps and tubes to the ball area in the playroom soon (or on a larger scale outside) to expand on her interest even more, so stay tuned! 🙂

Homemade “Moon Sand”

Today, we explored homemade moon sand in the sensory table!  Stella really liked it, but not as much as the three-year old I watched today.  He was absorbed in this stuff for a very long time and kept coming back to it, adding more materials (vehicles, geometric shapes, play kitchen utensils, cups and bowls…), and exploring it in different ways. I found the idea over at The Imagination Tree and we’ll definitely be making it again! The recipe called for 5 cups of flour and 1 cup of baby oil and I ended up doubling it to fill our large tub.  I was skeptical because of the flour (how could flour be like sand?!), but this stuff was awesome!  We added glitter to the mixture later in the day and that added another level of fun.

Not a great picture, but it at least gives you an idea of what it looks like:

Homemade "Moon Sand"

Car Activities for a Young Toddler

We recently had to travel to Texas and back home again, for at total of 1,044 miles, with our 15-month old.  A couple of factors added to the already stressful experience of traveling with a young toddler — we planned to make the round trip in a total of three days, and the reason for the trip was for Stella to have her upper lip and posterior tongue ties revised via laser by a specialist.  I happen to have a pretty mellow little girl, but traveling with a little one can be exhausting, regardless, let alone one who has just endured oral surgery and is scared and in pain.

In the week leading up to our trip, I took some steps to make travel a little easier on all three of us.  In my Google and Pinterest searching, I had no problem finding car activities for older toddlers and preschoolers, but little luck finding anything I thought was suitable for a 15-month old.   So, I came up with my own based on things Stella was interested in and things I thought she might be interested in.  Hopefully this list will give you some ideas to ease your travels with your own little one.  In addition to these activities, my husband or I sat in the backseat with her for the entire trip, except when she was napping.

The whole lot:

The whole lot!

These are just pony beads in a glass spice jar.  They sound cool when you shake them and Stella loved putting them back into the jar one by one and hearing them “clink.”  Good for fine motor skills, too.

These are just pony beads in a glass spice jar.  They sound cool when you shake them and Stella loved putting them each back into the jar one by one and hearing them "clink."  Good for fine motor skills, too.

Don’t underestimate the ol’ standby of popsicle sticks and an oatmeal can 🙂  Stella played with this over and over and over again (and still does, more than two months later!).

craft sticks and can


This is an old hummus container. I cut a hole in the lid and stored some poms inside.  She loved pushing the poms through the hole.  Different sizes of poms made it more interesting.






Are you beginning to notice a theme?  Toddlers love dumping and filling, and Stella is no exception 🙂  This is an old wipes container with fabric strips and ping pong balls to put in and take out.  She definitely loved the fabric strips way more than the ping pong balls.




Wipe container


I found these wooden animal shapes at Wal-mart for less than $1 a piece.  I added magnets to the back and took a metal pan for her to stick them to.  This pan ended up not working out very well because of the size — an actual cookie sheet would probably work better.


Animal magnets


Stella was really into this zip/velcro pouch that I usually carry in my purse and she also loved to play with rocks.  So, I give you…rocks a in bag. The things that entertain toddlers, right?!


Bag of rocks


Baby dolls, of course.  We don’t go anywhere without baby dolls.


Baby dolls

One of her favorite things to do is look at pictures of people she knows, so I took a small photo book full of pictures.

photo album

These are “busy bags” that I made duplicates of when I made some for a friend’s toddler.  The velcro sticks were a hit, but the other two (flannel board and magnetic fish) didn’t interest her much.

Busy bags


I was able to fit all of the goodies into this box that fit nicely on the floor of the backseat.



She spent at least some time on all of the activities I took, but the poms and the photo album were the most popular.  We also took a lot of books to read and that was probably her favorite activity.  The trip there was much smoother than trip back, but she was a trooper, for sure!

Baby Doll Birthday Party

Stella’s great-grandma, Connie, made her a mini chocolate cake today, just because she’s sweet like that. I decided to add to the fun and turn the mini cake into a birthday cake for her baby doll, complete with a candle and the “Happy Birthday” song. Stella thought it was quite fun 😉



DIY “Little Helper Stand”

I’m continually amazed by my husband’s ability to make pretty much anything 🙂  Check out this awesome Little Helper Stand he made for Stella so she can stand safely at the counter to help with things she loves to help with like cooking, washing dishes, making coffee, and other fun activities.  He found the plans in the October/November 2013 issue of Handy Magazine.

Side view of the stand.

Side view of the stand. It is adjustable so we can continue to use it as she grows taller.

Back view.

Back view. Excuse my messy countertop 😉