Monday, January 20, 2020

10 Easy DIY Valentines Crafts for Preschoolers

Valentines Day doesn't have to just be for adults in love, it can also be a great reason to get preschoolers crafting and thinking of others. These easy diy valentines crafts all make great classroom activities and can be used as cute valentines gifts for friends at school or kindy, or for mum and grandma. They're a great way to celebrate the joy of friendship and show others how much they're appreciated.

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Melissa from Fireflies and Mudpies has created an adorable template for these cute diy heart buddies. Print off the template and colour however you like with watercolour paint, crayons, pencils or pens and then follow the tutorial to add pipecleaner legs and arms. Add some googly eyes or sticker eyes and you have a cute little heart buddy friend. Head to Fireflies and Mudpies to get the template and other creative ways to turn these heart buddies into Valentines Day cards.


How cute is this little love bug?! This would make a great classroom activity and the love bugs could be used as valentines gifts too. To make these all you will need is toilet paper rolls, pipe cleaners, coloured paper, googly eyes, washi tape and beads. Get the full tutorial and see even more fun love bug designs over at Red Ted Art.

Toilet paper love bug craft for preschoolers


Create a cute textured heart by recycling materials already on hand at home. All you need is some cardboard {e.g. a cereal box} and any fabric, ribbon, felt and even paper scraps that need using up. If you're a craft material hoarder like me you should have all of these materials already. See the full tutorial over at Best Toys 4 Toddlers and get crafting. These could also be used as Valentines Day cards by writing on the back or sticking them onto some folded coloured cardstock.


Want to decorate your own cards but you don't have a heart stamp? No problem, make your own diy heart stamp with some pegs, foam hearts and hot glue. Visit Natural Beach Living for the full tutorial.


Whip up some cute heart shaped DIY chalk using plaster of paris, water and colouring. These cute little heart chalks will entertain the kids for hours and could also be used as a cute Valentine's Day classroom gift. Find out all the details at Oh The Things We'll Make.


This cute yarn heart is really simple to make. You'll only need a paper plate, yarn {wool} and some glue. Head over to About A Mom for the full tutorial.


Create a cute homemade necklace or keyring with these simple diy fingerprint heart charms. You will need some white polymer clay and acrylic paint to decorate. Thread them onto some string for a cute necklace or add a split ring to create a keyring. These would make great Valentines gifts for mum, grandma, teachers or classmates. Head to Kitchen Table Classroom for the tutorial.


Do you have a heap of broken crayons hiding in pencil cases and drawers of your house? Don't throw them away, use them to create these diy conversation heart crayons. Melt them down in a conversation hearts silicone mould and you have cute functional Valentines Day class gifts, or simply keep them for home. Visit Mom Junky for a full tutorial plus a printable idea to add if using them as a gift. These can also be made without the words by using basic silicone heart moulds.


These DIY sticky heart cards are easy for kids to make using cardstock, tissue paper and contact paper. They're also a great fine motor workout while scrunching and sticking the tissue paper and provide scissor skill practice so would be a great classroom activity. Read my full sticky heart card tutorial here.


Create a unique Valentines gift by painting heart shaped rocks. Search your garden or local park for triangle or heart shaped rocks and then follow the tutorial at I Love Painted Rocks to decorate them with cute heart paintings. Choose from 11 different designs, or create your own.

Disclosure - This post contains some affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you, should you make a purchase. All craft images featured within this post have been used with express permission from original authors.
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Friday, January 17, 2020

Australian animal small world play tray

When my big girl started at school I noticed  there was an abundance of gum leaves, tiny gumnuts, flowers and sticks always strewn across the paths thanks to the wind. I love using nature in our play so I immediately had a brainwave to set up an Australian themed small world play tray. So I collected a few bits and pieces with my toddler on the way home and set up a surprise play tray for her big sister.

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- Play tray
- Australian animal figurines
- Coloured rice or edible dirt
- Gumnuts, sticks, flowers, rocks etc
- Wood slice or small chopping board
- Blue play silk

I like to set up most of our small world play in a tray because it gives the kids a defined play area and the high sides help to contain the mess {most of the time}. Using a tray also means it's portable and can be set up in any room, or moved up high away from tiny hands. It can also be taken away and brought back out later, for example if the kids are being too messy I'll remove it then if they want it later I'll bring it back out. We use the Kmart drinks tray but similar trays can be found at other homewares stores in the kitchenware section.

Being a nature based play tray most of the items needed can be foraged from the backyard, local gardens or parks. When we set up any type of nature play I usually give the girls a small wicker basket and we go on a nature treasure walk and collect bits and pieces that have fallen near footpaths near our house. We love collecting interesting leaves, sticks, small logs, gumnuts, flowers and seedpods. For this play tray all our nature items were foraged except the dried lotus pod which I already had at home.

I don't like mixing dry and wet sensory materials in the same small world because I prefer to reuse all our sensory materials. So in this case because I used coloured rice and natural wooden elements, I used a blue playsilk for the river, rather than water. I also find rice is easier to clean up than dirt or cocoa which is why I opted to use rice as the dirt base. However, you could definitely use edible dirt or even real dirt for this small world, it all comes down to personal preference and how messy you want things to get! If you're worried about it getting too messy set up an old sheet underneath the tray so clean up is easy {a stick vacuum comes in handy too} or simply set it up outside.

There really are no rules when it comes to setting up a small world tray. I usually start by working out where I want the ground sensory base/s to be then start building it up by adding the other elements {gumnuts, sticks, leaves etc}. If I'm using taller bits of branches as trees I'll put them towards an edge of the tray so they don't get constantly knocked over. I also use rocks or sticks to separate different areas like the water and dirt so the spaces are obviously defined at the start of play, however it all ends up a mess once the play starts anyway. Lastly I add the animals to wherever they look right. Basically just jump in and start placing things where you think they'll look good and move them around a few times until you feel it looks right {or at least similar to the idea you have in your head}. The kids are going to have their own ideas and make up their own stories while playing, the small world is just a starting point for their play.

For this small world I used our koala, platypus, tortoise shell butterfly and bearded dragon. I put it together quickly and these were the first of our Australian animal figurines I grabbed. We also have a kangaroo, ostrich, wombat and cassowary that could be used as well. All of our animal figurines are collecta brand, but their are similar ones available from Schliech.

This small world can be used to teach different Australian animal facts like animal names, different animal habitats, what they eat and different types of animals {mammals, marsupials, insects}. It's also a great bookish play activity after reading books about Australian animals like The Very Hungry Caterpillars Australian Friends. Of course it's also great for imaginary play. 

For more small world play ideas using animal figurines see our rock pool small world and animal figurine play ideas post and check out our animal play ideas pinterest board.

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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

12 picture books to make starting school easier for children

Starting school is a time of massive change and upheaval, and not just for the children heading off to school. There's new places to be, new routines to learn, new people to meet and new friends to make. All of that can be a little bit daunting for both parents and kids. Us adults are pretty good at coping, or at least pretending like we have it all together, but our little people sometimes need help to manage big feelings and emotions.

Will the other kids like me? Who will my teacher be? What will my classroom look like? Where is the playground? When do I get to go home? Why can't mum stay with me? There's so many questions and so many changes children have to work their way through. I've always been a big believer in books helping explain feelings, experiences and complex ideas to children, so it's no surprise we used picture books to help my daughter with the transition to school when she started prep. With another school year on the horizon I've put together a list of picture books that are great for helping children with the start of school, whether it be the start of kindy, prep, foundation, primary school, or changing to a new school, there's books for everyone {even the ones who definitely don't want to go to school}.

12 picture books to help make starting school easier for children

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FIRST DAY | Andrew Daddo

A really popular book here in Australia to calm the nerves about starting school is First Day, by Aussie actor and author Andrew Daddo. Are you ready? It'll be fun! You'll make new friends. New BFFs! You might have to be a bit brave ... It's the first day of school, but who is the most nervous about the big day? Daddo has captured how the first day of school feels for children themselves and also for us as parents. This one is a great read for preparing the whole family for the transition to big school.

MADDIE'S FIRST DAY | Penny Matthews

It is Maddie's first day of school and she has everything ready - her uniform, shoes, socks and hat. But there is one special thing that Maddie can't leave behind - her blanky! The excitement of the first day of school, new experiences and making friends are the main themes for this book. Matthews focuses on moments throughout the day that might seem small and insignificant to adults, but are extremely important for children.


On my first day, I will meet new friends and learn new things... What about you? Whether big or small, feathered or furry, the first day of school can be a lot of fun! Using cute illustrations of different animals, My First Day at School captures the fun of learning and making new friends at school.


Tim, Hannah, Sunita, Joe and Polly are all off to school for the first time. Would you like to meet them and see how they go? There are new friends to make, fun ways to learn, and lots of different things to discover. Starting School focuses on the different experiences and feelings of the five children as they begin school for the first time. Each page focuses on a different area of the school and experience from the day such as making friends, snack time, the playground and in the classroom.

THE DAY YOU BEGIN | Jacqueline Woodson

There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you. There are many reasons to feel different. Maybe it's how you look or talk, or where you're from; maybe it's what you eat, or something just as random. It's not easy to take those first steps into a place where nobody really knows you yet, but somehow you do it. The Day You Begin is a great book about overcoming nerves and celebrating what makes everyone unique.


It's not just children who are going to school for the first time that may be experiencing some nerves. Kids who are changing to a new school will be facing the exact same fears as if they were starting school again for the first time. Similarly, some children get really anxious about starting a new grade at school after a long holiday break. Will their friends be in their class? Will they make new friends? What will the teacher be like? The start of the school year can be a daunting time even for seasoned school kids. The following books are really good for kids who are transitioning school, or moving up grades.


The Night Before First Grade follows Penny as she prepares for her first day of Grade One with her best friend Jenny. She's full of excitement as she knows she'll have her best friend by her side, but then not everything goes to plan. Fun rhymes and cute illustrations show how Penny overcomes her nerves and makes the most of the situation. This is the perfect book for children moving into first grade, especially if their best friend won't be in the same class. It's also great for any country where the school year starts in summer.


What happens when you're super excited for the new school year with all your friends, but when you get to school none of them are in your new class? Your tummy bubbling away with excitement suddenly starts squelching doing cartwheels. But it's not all bad, now there's a bunch of new friends to make and at lunch time the playground will be full of old friends too. Old Friends New Friends is a great book about being brave and has a lot of coping strategies for children when they're faced with unexpected change.


Some kids will be so anxious, or just completely disinterested, that they flat out refuse to go to school. To help them with starting school, or going back to school, try these picture books below. All the main characters start out refusing to go to school for various reasons, but they may convince your kids that school is fun after-all.


Let me start by saying this book is hilarious! Pigeon thinks he knows everything so why does he have to go to school anyway? The Pigeon Has to Go to School starts out with all the what if's pigeon thinks might happen at school. What if he doesn't like it? What if the teacher doesn't like him? I mean, what if he learns TOO MUCH!?! The hilarious illustrations and sarcasm will have kids rolling around with laughter, and by then end they'll probably want to go to school too. If you want even more laughs, check out all the other Pigeon books by Mo Willems.

I DON'T WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL | Stephanie Blake

I Don't Want to go to School is the story of Simon the super rabbit and he won't go to school. No way! But, after his first day of school he changes his mind and there's no way he wants to go home. This is a good picture book particularly for little who boys who may be trying to hold in the fact that they're anxious to go to school.

DEAR TEACHER | Amy Husband

Dear Teacher is a hilarious collection of letters from Michael to his new teacher Miss Brookes explaining why he can't go to class. From traveling to the pyramids of Egypt to getting attacked by pirates and going to the moon in a rocket ship, each letter is increasingly outlandish and covered with Michael's incredibly funny sketches from his many adventures. When Michael's teacher writes back telling him how sorry she is he'll miss all of the exciting school activities planned for the year, Michael realises all the fun he'd really miss out on.


Not all picture books about starting school focus on the child's experience, some very cleverly convey messages about being nervous, learning new routines and making friends from the perspective of someone else.


It's not just kids who are anxious about starting school, the teachers will be too! With a class full of new little people to get to know your teacher may be just as nervous as you. How To Get Your Teacher Ready is an instructional style how-to book that gives students plenty of ways to help make the teacher feel welcome and ready for the year ahead. This adorable book shows children how to harness their nerves and handle situations that may go wrong. This book is quite long compared to others so would be great for kids who might be going into older grades, or who are nervous about going into a new class.


It's not just school kids and teachers who get nervous about the first day of school... the school is nervous too. School is used to it just being him and janitor, but now he has to meet teachers and children too. What will the children do? Will they like him? School's First Day of School starts out a bit rough, but then he learns new things and realises it's not that bad being a school at all.

Disclosure - This post contains some affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you, should you make a purchase. All books purchased from Book Depository come with free worldwide shipping.
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Thursday, January 9, 2020

DIY Sticky Heart Card

Ever since my girls were toddlers they've loved making home made cards for family and friends for any and every occasion. I mean every occasion, like say Wednesday... Most of the time they draw random designs, but sometimes we make purposeful designs like this sticky heart card I came up with originally for their grandma for Valentine's Day. We've also made the same design for her birthday and for their dad for Father's Day. It's quite a versatile design and can be used for a number of occasions. Follow the steps below to create your own DIY sticky heart card.

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- White paper or cardstock
- Coloured tissue paper
- Stickers {optional}
- Rhinestones {optional}
- Contact paper
- Crayons/pens
- Scissors

The majority of the items needed to make these cards can easily be found at local dollar stores, Kmart, Big W, or online at stores like Catch and Etsy. You can create the cards with any coloured paper/cardstock and tissue paper combination you like. We prefer to use a white background and choose red and pink tissue paper for Valentine's Day cards and usually use the person's favourite colour if we're making them for a birthday or Mother's Day/ Father's Day.


1. Fold your white paper or cardstock in half so it makes a card

2. Draw a heart shape on the front of the card. Gently fold the paper inside the heart then cut to make a slit inside the heart then carefully cut around the outline until the entire heart is cut out.

3. Stick contact paper to the back of the heart cut-out so the sticky side is facing the front of the card. This will create a sticky heart window.

4. Decorate the heart window with scrunched tissue paper. Tear the tissue paper into thin strips then scrunch them into small balls and press each one onto the contact surface.  You could also add stickers and jewel embellishments.

5. Write a cute saying on the front or inside of the card. Some ideas are:

  • Let's stick together
  • I'm stuck on you
  • Stick with me
  • You make my heart shine
  • You stole a piece of my heart
  • I love you to pieces
  • Be my Valentine


If you have OCD tendencies {like me} and want your hearts to be perfect, or you want multiple different coloured hearts without mixing colours together; try this easy variation. Instead of hand drawing a single heart on the card, use a small heart cookie cutter and trace multiple hearts onto the card. Follow the same steps as above and you'll have some cute cards like these.

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