Spiced Cider

Spiced cider screams holidays at our house.  In fact, it is such a big part of our holidays that we wanted to share it with our children from the get go.  Much to our surprise, it is quite an easy recipe to make with the help of little hands.  Since everything is poured together while it is cool, there is no risk of getting burnt during the creating process and the “dump” nature of the recipe gives toddlers so much to do!  Here is the recipe that we use:


  • 4 cups cider
  • 3 cups cranberry juice
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ½ tsp. ground cloves or 1 tsp. whole cloves
  • dash of salt


  1. Mix together in a large pot and warm over medium heat.
  2. Take out cinnamon stick and any whole cloves before serving.


If you are in a time crunch:

  1. Put a few red hot candies into a mug of apple cider.
  2. Microwave for about 2 minutes and 30 seconds.
  3. Stir.


P.S. Don’t forget to pull a little out for the little helper several minutes before you intend on enjoying a cup so he or she can enjoy as well.

Act Like Turkeys

We’ve all heard the saying “running around like a chicken with my head cut off” but what if we really were the next thing to be eaten – how would we run?  That is exactly what toddlers have the opportunity to show you when you play this fun game.  To set up this activity, ask your toddler if they want to be eaten for dinner (I’ve never had one tell me yes but there is a first for everything).  Then explain that some turkeys become someone’s dinner, especially at Thanksgiving.  Finally, tell them that this is their chance to show you how they would avoid being dinner.  I always give some ideas like run in zigzags, turn fast corners, and hide.  For extra fun, make turkey masks or hold on to feathers as you run about.

Roll Squash and Gourds

Rolling objects that are not perfectly round causes toddlers to rethink what they know about rolling.  It is an excellent opportunity to talk through a disequilibrium (time of confusion) and help the child to sort out what really happens.  Rolling squash and gourds is not only mind boggling to a little one but also fun in that they can’t predict what might happen.  Add a long cardboard ramp to the mix by opening up a diaper box and propping up one end for even more enjoyment.

Paint with Dried Corn Cobs

Rolling dried corn cobs in paint and then rolling the painted cob along paper makes for some very interesting colors and patterns.  The resulting project can be great starter paper for animal projects (it looks like animal hide prints) or can make wonderful wrapping paper for holiday gifts.  Toddlers love these patterns and the fact that they were able to make them by themselves.  They also usually find the bump, bump, bump feeling that goes through their hands as they roll to be quite delightful.


Make Shadow Puppets

Shadows are incredible things, especially to a toddler.  Making shadow puppets therefore makes you incredible.  Favorites in our house include ducks, dogs, and dinosaurs (nothing too fancy).  Recently these puppets have started chasing and interacting with other toys and our toddler finds the “I only live in the sun constraint” hilarious.  We like to have fun in the late afternoon as the sun is at a good angle for throwing shadows.

Sort Rocks

Sorting of any kind helps a toddler engage his or her brain in reasoning, decision making, as well as motor planning – three incredibly important skills. Rock sorting adds an interesting sensory aspect as well.

There are many ways to sort rocks – here are a few:

  1. Size (this is an excellent way to work on concept words Like big, little, large,medium, small, tiny, etc.)
  2. Color
  3. Shape
  4. Texture
  5. Temperature (this one I learned from our toddler)
  6. Weight
  7. Number of holes

As with any sorting activity, for added benefit ask your toddler tell you about how the objects are sorted, why they chose to sort that way, and where an unsorted object might fit.

Load It Up

The only thing better than unloading Mommy’s shopping bags is loading one all by yourself!  “Load It Up” is a games that lets your toddler do just that. Start by spreading various products (canned goods, toys, boxes, empty boxes, whatever your little heart desires and your toddler can lift) around the room.  Give little one a shopping bag (we use reusable ones since they are stronger) and call out needed items. As your toddler gets older youcan modify this game by giving them a picture list to load in their bag. We play this game while I’m making dinner and the items for the bag are most often my next ingredient. Once again we spend significant time in the kitchen leading up to the holidays so kitchen fun for toddler is a must!

Food Ad Search and Find

Search and Find activities are great for building vocabulary as well as visual skills in toddlers.  Food Ads make perfect ready made search and finds since toddlers typically can name or at least can recognize the name of most foods that could be found in an ad.  When we do this activity we typically use the produce page as it would by far be the most recognizable page in our house, but we know every house has its own staple foods.  Here are some questions you might want to ask while playing search and find:

  1. Can you find something orange/blue/green/red/etc?
  2. Where is a food that is soft/hard/crunchy/smooth/rough?
  3. Are there any bananas (or the name of any food) on the page?  Where?
  4. Where are the onions (or the name of any food)?
  5. Can you find a small/medium/large vegetable?
  6. How many purple (or any other color) fruits do you see?