Mini Sous Chefs

Do you feel like you run a diner lately? We are equal parts obsessed with
and completely over cooking so….many…meals. While we can’t break the
seemingly endless cycle of preparing every breakfast, lunch, dinner (REPEAT!),
we CAN suggest making the task fun by getting the whole family involved in the
cooking process. Cooking is one of THE best activities for children of all ages.
It’s a hands on sensory experience and involves many developmental skills such
as fine and gross motor, language, math, social bonding, cooperation, following
directions, and memory. It’s not necessarily easy to include littles in the cooking
process but, with practice, it may become a great weekly (or possibly daily?)
activity that makes cooking less of a redundant chore and more of a fun and
memorable experience.

Today we are sharing a few tips to make cooking with kids easier, and a
few recipe ideas and websites that may inspire your own “Mel’s Diner” menu this
• First of all, as we have already mentioned, practice makes doable, not perfect.
When you and your child understand the expectations in the kitchen, the whole
process goes a lot easier. It’s going to be messy. It’s going to be really messy
and that’s ok. If you are just starting to cook with small children, begin with a
very easy one bowl type recipe that is child safe and something they will also
be excited to eat when finished. Remember, cooking is great for all ages. Start
cooking with your baby now and your preschooler will be asking to help in the
kitchen tomorrow! (And yes, children really grow up that fast. )
• Second, prepare like a cooking show. While your child is playing or napping,
get the ingredients for your recipe prepped (just the things that may be too
much for your child to help with). Wash, chop, crack, measure; do whatever will
make the cooking process run smoothly for you. You may be surprised how
much your child can actually help with! Then, you can include them in a little
more next time.
• Third, if you have a child safe step stool that allows them to be part of the action
at the kitchen counter, use it! If you don’t, prepare your dish at the kitchen
table or even on the (clean) kitchen floor. You can throw down a plastic table
cloth or towel underneath to catch any spills. When the activity is brought to
your child’s eye level they will be more engaged and involved. If you are
cooking with your baby then use a carrier or their highchair; keeping them away
from anything hot or sharp. Let them touch the ingredients safely, smell spices,
and explore the bowls and utensils.
• Lastly, cooking is rewarding in many ways but obviously the biggest reward is
eating what you make! Choose recipes that your child will be excited to make
and enjoy together. You may need to bribe them with chocolate cake to
start. 😉

Here are a few ideas and websites to get you started:
Nut free trail mix (we use whatever is in the pantry: i.e. raisins, goldfish, cereal,
Baked apples with cinnamon
Roasted veggies with olive oil and garlic
Yogurt with fruit and honey
Mashed avocado with lemon (easy guacamole)
Cinnamon sugar toast
Nut butter (or sun-butter) toast with banana and honey
Quick breads (banana, pumpkin) with raisins or chocolate chips
Banana ice cream (frozen banana chunks in the blender)
Cookies and both have some easy recipes that
both kids and adults will enjoy!
We also love Deb Perelman from
She has recipes on her blog that she cooks with her own children as well as
really delicious things that make quarantine more bearable: including chocolate
frosting in a food processor! So easy and good!

We hope you will share with us what you are cooking at home!
Now, go play!
Chelsie and Michele

Friday Faves

Here are five fun things we saw this week.

Have a great weekend!
Michele and Chelsie

Instead of Selling Lemonade, Boy Sets Up ‘Drive-By Joke Stand’ to Spread Laughter During Quarantine

104-Year-Old Woman Beat Stage 4 Cancer And COVID-19, Says To Drink Red Wine Daily – Cheers to her!

Self-Proclaimed “Fat, Bald Principal And His Smoking Hot Wife” Travel 800 Miles To Personally Congratulate Each Graduating Senior

Dad Turns His 6-Year-Old Son’s Drawings Into Reality And The Results Are Both Creepy And Hilarious 

And, our fan favorite of the week!

@simple_play_with_mummy creates this simple fine motor and problem solving activity for her babe and it’s perfect!

Peek a Boo!

Want a fun, free, awesome game to play right now? A game that will
help your child develop important language and social/emotional
developmental skills? A game that can be played in lots of different ways to
also encourage motor skills in babies, turn taking in toddlers, and problem
solving skills in preschoolers?

It’s Peek-a-Boo of course!

Peek-a-boo is one of those never gets old, joyfully fun games to play over
and over again. Peek-a-boo is played all over the world and for good
reason! It is a tool for all areas of development. It’s easy, it’s portable, and
it’s fun for all ages. That is why we are sharing some quick tips and ideas
for playing peek-a-boo games for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.

For babies, peek-a-boo is a wonderful way to encourage social
emotional sharing, language skills, motor skills, and to develop object
permanence. Object permanence is the understanding that when an object
or a person is out of view, they still exist. Babies develop this skill between
four and seven months and peek-a-boo is a perfect way for them to
experiment and learn about this concept. When playing peek-a-boo with
your baby pause and wait before revealing yourself. Allow your baby a
moment to react, vocalize or reach for you. The simple act of waiting, even
for a second or two, will give your child an opportunity to be an active
participant in the game instead of just an observer. As your baby grows
and learns the game, you can place a cloth on their head and give them
time to pull it off. You can also encourage them to sign or vocalize for
“more” after each turn. The excitement and fun of the game, as well as the
back-and-forth, makes for a motivating opportunity to practice language
skills. For motor skill development, you can play peek-a-boo during tummy
time. Lay on the floor, face to face with your little one, and encourage your
baby to strengthen their neck by looking up for you. You may also hide a
favorite toy under a blanket. Show your baby the toy disappearing under
the blanket (you may even want to let a little show through) then watch your
baby reach and stretch to reveal the toy. Peek-a-boo!

For toddlers, peek-a-boo is still a fun game to play that encourages language and social/emotional sharing. Now, your child can say “peek-a-
boo”, “I found you”, and “play again”. Each time you play with your child, you are practicing the rules of a game and turn taking as well. At this age,
children also play a simple game of hide-and-seek, which is a variation of
peek-a-boo. Toddlers like to hide in the same place over and over
however, the act of seeking and finding creates a bonding experience; you
are excited to find them and they are excited that they found you. This game also builds their confidence and problem solving skills when they are
the “seeker”. Just make sure they will be successful by not hiding too
well. 😉 Your child can also play hide-and-seek with their toys while working
on pretend play, language, and problem solving skills. For example, while
playing with my son’s toy barn, we often hide a farm animal and the farmer
has to find the animal that “ran away”. We practice language skills “Oh no,
where is the horse? We have to find him!” and problem solving skills “Is he
under the couch?” “Is the horse inside the basket?” “Can he fit in this
box?”. Another variation of the game is to hide toys in tin foil and try to
guess what the item is before unwrapping. This game also encourages
your child’s thinking skills. Model and practice exploring the object, taking
a guess as to what it could be and, if possible, answering why they think so
before unwrapping.

For preschoolers, hide-and-seek will become more sophisticated.
You may be able to really tap into your child’s problem solving skills by
hiding in a “challenging” place. Another variation of hide-and-seek is to go
on a scavenger hunt. Pinterest has many types of scavenger hunts that
you can click and print. Your child will be working on thinking skills and
social/emotional skills as they work collaboratively to complete the hunt
with you or even a sibling. You can make your own scavenger hunts as
well to practice cognitive skills such as beginning sounds (find an object
that begins with the letter sound), or numbers (find one apple, find two
cups, etc.). The possibilities are endless!

Now, go play!
Chelsie and Michele

Friday Faves

Here are five fun things we saw this week.

Have a great weekend!
-Michele and Chelsie

Dr. Seuss meets Dr. Dre in this mash up you have got to see.

11 Cool Ways to Display Family Photos (I love the over the sink display)

Everyone is getting in on the cardboard box play

Lunchtime Entertainment

And our fan favorite from the week:

“After six weeks of quarantine I’ve finally realized that we all need balance to keep our sanity. SO here’s a picture of O with our iPad, not with the sand, bubbles, brownies, or crafts we made today. Shout out to everyone doing their best, including the little ones.” And shout out to YOU @elisaprohorst, thank you for sharing.




Tell Me a Story

Once upon a time…these three words conjure up memories of fantasy and adventure
from our childhoods and the childhoods of our ancestors. Storytelling is an ancient art
form. Before printed books, ancient civilizations told stories of their history, daily life and culture and they passed those stories down from generation to generation. Nowadays, Disney and Pixar have our (and our children’s) undivided attention. However, storytelling is a wonderful, simple way to interact with your child. While they reap all the developmental benefits, you get all the cuddles! 😉 Storytelling aids in your child’s communication skills, memory, imagination, curiosity, and social/emotional
development. Storytelling is great for all ages (infants and beyond) and stories can be
about anything; from the day-to-day of life, to a fantasy adventure with your child as the
main character. The best thing is you don’t have to be Walt Disney to capture your
child’s imagination! Telling your child stories that spark their interest will have them
smiling and asking for more. Simply put, storytelling is an easy, free, portable and fun
way to help your child reach important developmental milestones. Need help getting
started? Here are some quick tips for a successful story time!

• First off, don’t overthink it. Children love stories and your child will love hearing your
stories. If you are not sure what to talk about begin with a story that you already know.
You can retell a favorite book from you own childhood.
• Keep it short and simple at first depending on your child’s age and attention span.
When they have become enthralled with storytelling you can build on the stories you
have told them or create new stories.
• Repeat, repeat, repeat. This part is easy. If your child liked the story they will ask for
it again…and again. This creates a wonderful opportunity for them to build their
memory and anticipate what comes next. You may even be able to pause during
storytelling and allow your child to complete a part in the story which helps their
communication and vocabulary skills.
• Start with something that sparks your child’s interest and build your story from there.
Do they love puppies? Do they love chocolate cake? What about a special friend or
family member? If your story centers around a favorite interest or involves a favorite
person they will be more apt to tune in and stay interested.
• Choose a relaxed and quiet place and time to tell stories. Bedtime, during snack, or
even in the car are great options.
• Use emotions and expressions during storytelling to not only peak your child’s interest
but as a way for them to learn and process different emotions.
• Use storytelling as a teaching tool. Do you want to practice manners? Make sure the
characters in your stories practice good manners too. Do you want to teach your child
to be safe when walking outside? Tell them a story about going to the park. Do you
want your child to feel confident or less anxious at playdates or even at the dentist?
Use storytelling to create a powerful narrative that will let your child know what to
expect and how to manage their fears. You will be amazed at how storytelling will help
your child to shape their understanding of the world around them.

Storytelling has been a wonderful chance to share, grow, and bond with our children
and we hope you enjoy it too!
Now, go play!

Chelsie and Michele

Play It Again!

Have you ever looked in your closet and said, “I have nothing to wear?” I have,
on more than one occasion, even though my closet appears to be full of options. Now
imagine your child is saying to his/her toys, “I have nothing to play with!” Doesn’t seem
as impossible as it sounds, does it?

We are all susceptible to the boredom of repetition; adults and kiddos alike.
However, play is our child’s work and we want them to stay motivated, focused, and
curious during playtime. So how can we keep their interest when we are unable to
break up the monotony of being at home? Well, we have a few tips, including a new
blog series, that we have been thinking about for a while, and now seems like the
perfect time to try it out! We want to share with you multiple ways to play with one
simple toy or object to encourage and enhance cognitive, communication, social/
emotional, and motor skills for your baby, toddler, and preschooler. We hope sharing a
few simple ideas will make play time more fun and may spark your own creativity!

First up, if you haven’t already done so, try to pare down the amount of toys
available to your child at one time. This will create opportunities for them to play with
more purpose and to focus on the toys they do have access to. Then, when things
seem stale, switch it up and place the “old” toys away for another week or so and bring
the “new” toys back out. It works every time! We always keep some favorite toys
around all the time (such as cars, blocks, and animals) that can be played with in
multiple ways.

Next, try to set up toys in a novel way. You can set up the train set and zoo animals or
place the “ingredients” to make a birthday cake at the play kitchen with your child’s
favorite stuffed animals. For babies try a simple sensory activity (like finger-paint with
applesauce at their highchair). When your child wakes up from a nap they will discover
something new to do and when they have fun, you will too!

Lastly, we say this often: “Follow your child’s lead.” You’ve given them the toys and
materials, now let them play in a way that sparks their curiosity. By allowing them the
space to play in their own way, you are helping their brains make those important
developmental connections!

Now onto our first – “Play It Again” – series. First up, a cardboard box!
Not a toy but super fun! We all have one (or many) hiding in the garage so here are
some simple ideas (free and hopefully easy) to use those cardboard boxes in play for
babies, toddlers, and even preschoolers to spark their interest and naturally encourage
their cognitive, communication, social/emotional and motor skills through play!

Babies (6-12 months)
Fill and dump activities are perfect at this age, just change up what you put inside the
box and let them fill and dump it over and over again.
You may also want to try drop and dump. Cut out holes at the top of the box for little
cars, shapes, plastic eggs, or pom poms. Let your baby push the objects through the
hole then open the box to find them again. Then dump it out and start over.
Play a stacking game by using small boxes (like a tissue box) to stack up . They are
light and have the perfect place to hold. If your child can’t stack yet, you do the stacking
and help them to do the crashing!

Play a game of peek-a-boo by placing a favorite stuffy under the box. Lift up the box to
reveal the stuffed animal and let them grab it and give it a big hug. Then show the
animal hiding again. Your little one will be excited to watch their toy peek at them over
and over!
If the box is big enough (like a diaper box) fill it with blankets and soft toys and place
your baby inside sitting up. They can explore all the soft textures and toys from this
cozy spot.
Make a sensory box. Poke holes around each side of the box and push through colorful
scarves, ribbons, or teether beads. Tie a knot for each scarf etc. inside the box so they
stay attached. Then your child can turn the box around and explore.

Toddlers (12-24)
Try the baby activities and also…
Use big boxes to make tunnels, ramps, and garages for trains and cars. It’s a great
opportunity to talk about prepositions and explore fast and slow.
Cardboard boxes are perfect for pretend play and you don’t have to be fancy to do it.
Turn it into a baby bed and practice caring for the dolls. Turn the box into a car or
maybe a robot! You only need a few simple decorations because your toddler’s
imagination will take over!
Get creative and make simple paper dolls out of cardboard. You can have your toddler
help with the decorating, then play in multiple ways. We always have a cardboard
“gingerbread boy” around. We act out the story by pretending to chase him, and then
eating him up like the fox.
Make a simple target practice for bean bags, balls, or even balled up socks. You can
make the targets colors, letters, or even pictures of their favorite things. When you land
on the target you have to identify it. You can also keep score with tally marks and count
them up at the end.
For a simple motor activity use a box on the smaller size to make a die and place action
pictures on each side. When you roll the die, you do the action it lands on.
Make a mystery box. Cut a hole the size of your hand on one side and place a
“mystery” item inside. See if your toddler can identify the object before pulling it out. It’s
fun to see what they know and you can practice lots of vocabulary while playing!

Preschoolers (2-4 years)
Try the toddler activities and also…
Turn a big box into a play fort, house or spaceship. Allow your child to decide what to
make and how to decorate the box. Help them get those creative juices flowing and
then see how they play!
Use large cardboard pieces as art canvases. On a beautiful day set up your paints and
canvas outside. Let them paint what they see or how they feel that day.
Make dice, but this time place numbers and number dots on each side. When it lands
on a set of numbers have them count the dots together. They can even practice writing
the number and/or a number sentence on a piece of paper or chalkboard.
Use pieces of cardboard to make letter cut outs. Paint or color the letters then use
these cut outs to play a letter scavenger hunt.
Use the mystery box and place a small object that begins with each letter of the
alphabet inside. Then, as your child pulls out an object have them place that object on
its corresponding letter. You can use a large piece of cardboard to write all the letters in
marker. Write upper case on one side and lower case on the other side for additional

Hope these simple ideas inspire you, but most of all, we hope you have fun!
Now, go play!
Chelsie and Michele

Friday Faves

Here are 5 fun things we saw this week.
Have a great weekend!
-Michele and Chelsie

Because who doesn’t like a cute puppy AND a cute veterinarian.

Time to get away, from your couch.

Coors Light Grandma: “For the vitamins”

There has been an outpouring of celebrities giving away their time and money and it’s heartwarming to see all this good pouring out, here are just a few.
Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter pledges 1 Billion for COVID-19 relief
Guy Fieri raises 10 million for restaurant workers
Tyler Perry picks up grocery tabs for seniors

And our fan favorite of the week…

This car bridge! Thanks for sharing @missesmiller051713

Screentime IRL

As we enter our fifth week of quarantine (so surreal) we wanted to talk about
creating a balance of using media in our homes. We understand that under these
extraordinary circumstances, many families are using media in their homes in a different way then they normally would. It is a difficult time for parents and children and often we fall into the habit of looking at our phones and the television to escape and relax.  However, limited screen time is important for children’s overall healthy development.  Children need to play in all sorts of ways for important brain development in  communication, cognitive skills, social/emotional connections, as well as fine and gross motor skills.
We would like to share some simple tips and activities for creating a media
balance at home. First, watch quality, educational programs when possible (like
Sesame Street and PBS kids) and watch together. Talk about what is happening and
engage with your child instead of allowing television viewing to be a passive activity.
Make a schedule or follow a simple routine (wake up, breakfast, tv, play, lunch, nap,
snack, play, books, movement, dinner etc….) of when and where television, computer,
or iPad viewing will occur. Try to keep screens out of the bedroom and away from
mealtimes and before bedtime. Be consistent and let your child know when it is time for
screens and when it is over. Your child will quickly learn and get used to the routine
which will make turning off the television screen a piece of cake. Turning off the tv can
be problematic for some children. Try using a timer they can see so your child will know
when tv time is over and let them be in charge of setting and turning it off. Change the
scenery if possible by moving out of the room where the television is and schedule
something exciting after tv time like movement activities, outside adventures, or sensory
play. Lastly, make time for play. Play is the most important part of your child’s day. We
always say that it is your child’s work and how they learn about their world and you are
your child’s favorite toy! What they really want and need is interaction with you so enjoy
those extra cuddles during tv time and then play! We suggest planning a fun family
activity inspired by a favorite show or movie. It’s the perfect transition from media time
to play time. Your child will have fun and you will be helping them to make real life
connections to the shows they enjoy.

Here are some simple ideas to bring a few favorite television shows and movies to life:

Paw Patrol, Doc McStuffins – Shows of this nature allow for loads of pretend play
opportunities. Set up a soapy tub to give your plastic animals a bath, a vet hospital with
cotton balls and bandaids, or play hide and seek with your stuffy’s. Your child will enjoy
the adventure and it will encourage their own imagination.

Curious George – Be like George; always curious! Setting up a simple science
experiment to explore will engage your child’s mind and curiosity. Try color mixing by
using empty water bottles and food coloring or ziplock bags and paint. Let your child
pour the two colors together or squeeze the paint in the bags to create a new color. If
you use the paints, you can play with the bag or squeeze some out onto paper for
painting. If you use the colored water you can add some glitter and seal the top to
create a sensory bottle!

Sesame Street – Children love those colorful characters, so plan a color scavenger hunt
in your own neighborhood! Google images of your fav characters and print them on a
sheet of paper. Then take that along as a guide through a walk or wagon ride. You will
be creating a wonderful learning activity as well as a building a social/emotional
connection with your child as you explore and find something yellow like Big Bird on
your journey.

Frozen – Do you want to build a snowman? Save some cardboard boxes and wrap them
in white paper (the underside of wrapping paper works) or just let the littles decorate
them any way they wish. Then stack them up to make a snowman! Stacking items is a
great cognitive play tool for learning. Then let the play continue by encouraging your
child to find other (safe) objects around the house to stack.

Ratatouille – After the movie make a soup together. It can be just for play with colored
water and plastic foods or pom poms. Add ladles and cups to practice scooping and
pouring. You can also make real soup or any other yummy food together. Cooking in
the kitchen with children is a terrific learning and sensory experience that encourages all areas of development. Set up your recipe and tools ahead and then let your child help
to scoop and pour, smell the ingredients, shake the spices, and taste along the way.

Trolls – Once the movie is over turn on the soundtrack for a dance party! Make it special
by dressing up in fun and silly outfits then dance and move to your favorite tunes. This
can work for any soundtrack you like. Encouraging your child to move their bodies is an
important part of development not only for building gross motor strength but for making
strong connections in their brains.

We hope these tips will help your family to balance media in your home and enjoy more
activities together. If you would like information on The Academy of Pediatrics screen
time recommendations for infants, toddlers, and older children as well as access to an
online family media plan tool, you can check it out here:
Now, go play!
Chelsie and Michele

Friday Faves

Here are 5 fun things we saw this week.
Have a great weekend!
-Michele and Chelsie

“I cut my own bangs during quarantine…rearranging the apartment was getting dull”

Watch Matthew McConaughey Play Virtual Bingo with Seniors 

World Traveler Challenges People to Recreate their Vacation Photos in their homes

Some Good News with John Krasinski, Episode 2

And our fan favorite of the week!

How amazing is Paloma’s Troll pod made from a balloon, glue, and string! Thanks for sharing @momlivestheflylife !