Make Your Own Sidewalk Paint at Real Life Deals

It's time for the Mess For Less Idea of the Week over at Real Life Deals.  Today I will give you a quick and easy idea for making sidewalk paint with stuff you already have at home.

Want to learn how to do it?  Head on over to Real Life Deals and check it out.  While you are there, explore and find some great money saving tips.

Monsters vs Aliens - Toddler Style

Sometimes when I am looking for ideas, the easiest place to start is with things we already do.  I like to think about ways to extend play or take something routine and add a different spin to it. I am always on the lookout for  ideas to spice up play doh.  Some easy options can be found at (say it with me) the dollar store.  A while back, I purchased some googly eyes, pom poms, feathers and colored Popsicle sticks from the dollar store.  I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do with them all, but one of the ideas I had was to use the stuff with play doh.

Here is a quick tip for busy moms when you need a few minutes to get stuff done.  Don't just give the kids the play doh with all the new accessories.  Kids generally have a short attention span.  They will get bored soon and want to do something else.  I always start with a basic activity, in this case I just gave each girl some play doh with nothing else.  Sure enough, after 5-7 minutes, they were done.  That is when I brought out my cool new items. I made it sound super exciting and told them they could make aliens or monsters.  They played with the play doh for an additional 20 minutes which is a win for mommy!

Another quick play doh tip is to store it in the refrigerator.  The girls love poking their fingers in the cool play doh and they get a different sensory experience than they would with room temperature play doh.

So hold on to your hats and try not to get too frightened as I share some scary monsters and aliens.  I swear they are friendly.

B thinks the eyes have it!  :-)

A's monster sports a feathered cap.  There is no way a monster in a feathered cap can be scary!

Truck Tracks - Painting with Trucks

The inspiration for this painting with trucks idea came from an activity that B's Early Start teachers did in their class. You are going to need some paint, paper and toy cars, trucks or even trains. If you have a tray, it makes a great place to spread the paint.  Be creative when painting with trucks!  Those aluminum baking pans they sell at the dollar store would work great for this and most of us have some lying around.  I spread some red and blue paint on the tray and after looking at it it seemed kinda 4th of July-ish. 

Truck Tracks - For for toddlers! Painting using the wheels of a truck.

Dining Under the Sea


My girls love the Little Mermaid and all things fishy (except for eating actual fish, that would be too easy).  But they did love this fish I made out of sliced cheese.  I added some blueberries for the bubbles, made a starfish by using a cookie cutter and adding cinnamon, and chopped up some chicken for the sand/shells.  For the fish, I used a straw to make the scales and added some shredded mozzarella for the stripe. Then just cut out a little mouth and add an eye.  I used some cookie sprinkles for the eye but you can use anything or even just use a straw to punch out an eye.  If you don't mind punching a fish.  

B cleaned her plate.  A, my less adventurous eater, ate everything except the chicken.  That's a win in my book!  Any ideas for other sea items I can add?  

Kids Art - Block and Paper Towel Prints

Do you have some letter blocks at home? I am constantly tripping over them and finding them in the oddest places like in the dryer (how did that happen??). My kids rarely use them for building any more so I tried to breathe some new life into them. I was perusing a design blog, Print and Pattern, and they shared some images from a book where they wrapped blocks in yarn. That gave me an idea for some fun kids art. This Block and Paper Towel Prints project was inspired by big people art.  Often you can find ways to simplify activities to make them accessible for little artists. My little artists love creating with paint as you can see in the Kids Window Art Activity.

Block and Paper Towel Prints - use yarn and simple alphabet blocks to create a fun art experience.

Guest Post at Real Life Deals

Sharon, over at Real Life Deals, was nice enough to ask me to share some budget friendly kids ideas with her readers.  The ideas that I will be sharing are new so if you like what you have seen here, go check out her blog.  It's a great place to pick up some tips for saving money.  And who doesn't want to do that?

My first post appears here Mess For Less Idea of the Week

Fine Motor Activity - Fruit Loop Towers

Yesterday, I was looking for a quick fine motor activity to do with the girls that would not take much time and not require a big cleanup.  I remembered a fine motor activity I had seen on Sugar and Spice that involved play dough, pasta and cheerios.  Doesn't that sound yummy?  Okay, so you don't eat the pasta or the play dough, but you can eat the cereal when you are done. I didn't have cheerios (what kind of mom am I?) but I did have fruit loops and they worked just as well. My kids were so proud of how high they made their fruit loop towers. For more fun ideas check out 18 Fine Motor Activities for Preschoolers.

Fine Motor Activity - These fruit loop towers are a simple way to practice fine motor skills with little ones.

Bottle Print Flowers

Our recycling bin is usually filled with boxes, containers and bottles.  I confess that I often raid it to find materials for crafting with the kids.  Yup, nothing but the best for my kids.  When I was visiting another blog and saw Flower Prints From Soda Bottles I knew I wanted to try it and add my own spin to it. And I knew just where to look for some free art supplies. These Bottle Print Flowers are a great way to more use of a plastic bottle.

Bottle Print Flowers - Simple to create eye catching art using recycled soda bottles.

Flower Counting Math Game

Not all activities need to be elaborate or even require much preparation. Which is good because I am lazy. We did a Flower Counting Math Game math activity where the girls practiced counting and one-to-one correspondence and the setup took about 3 minutes. Did I mention I was lazy? I love easy math activities like Post It Math Games.

Flower Counting - Using flowers and cups with numbers on them kids can practice counting.

Funny Food Face


Made this dinner for A and B the other night.  It was very easy and the girls loved it.  The hair is obviously strawberries, but you could do cut grapes too.  The eyes are wheat bread that I cut with a cookie cutter.  I then have salami circles and a sprinkle on top.  A eats the sprinkles first and B doesn't like them, so she puts them aside and A has them when she has finished her dinner.  The nose is a baby carrot and the ears are Colby Jack cheese that I used a heart cookie cutter on.   Heart cookie cutters are great because in addition to hearts you can make lots out of half a heart. The mouth is a silicone muffin cup with peach yogurt.  I don't always have time to do dinners that look this fun, but when I do the girls always clean their plates!

Shaving Cream Cards and Gift Wrap

The twins will be starting at a new school in a few weeks. Their current teachers have been so amazing that we wanted to show our appreciation. We got them some gift cards, but I wanted to make them something special to remember the girls.  So we made some Shaving Cream Cards and Gift Wrap using shaving cream and food coloring. So let your legs be stubbly for a day and put that shaving cream to good use! When you are done with this activity, you can use the shaving cream for this Fine Motor Practice with Straws.

Shaving Cream Cards and Gift Wrap - It's easy for kids to make beautiful cards and gift wrap using marbled shaving cream.

Recycled Robot

We went to a birthday party last weekend and the birthday girl was kind enough to give us fun party favors that came in these great Pottery Barn Kids boxes. Now, being a crafty sort my mind was racing with all the things we could do with them. I thought they would make a fun recycled robot. First I gave the kids the boxes to play with. They stacked them and knocked them down over and over. When they got bored with that, we started working on our recycled robot.

Recycled Robot - Make a robot some recycled boxes. A great way to use items from an over flowing recycling bin.

Fun with Pipe Cleaners - Fine Motor Skills

Here is a quick idea for fine motor skills that uses something most everyone has - a colander!  You will also need some pipe cleaners, which in my opinion are also something everyone should have. This fine motor skills activity takes no time to set up and is great for when you need to keep your child busy for a little bit so you can make dinner. Just don't have them do this if you are cooking something that requires a colander.

Fine Motor Skills activity with Pipe Cleaners - Kids will have a ball while pushing and pulling pipe cleaners.

Recycled Plastic Mobile Art

A and B recently celebrated a birthday.  Friends were very generous and got them many presents, some of which were toys.  After struggling to get the toys out of the packages (not fun while a 3 year old waits under you, whining "Did you get it open?" over and over) I noticed that some packaging could be used for making recycled art. The best thing about recycled art is that you already have the supplies you need at home, probably in your recycling bin.

Turn an old toy box into a work of art. Love how this teaches kids about recycling.

Contact Paper Art - Tissue Paper Sticky Window

Are you as in love with contact paper as I am?  There are so many things you can do with it, like this Contact Paper Shape Art that we made. Today I am going to highlight an easy contact paper idea - a Tissue Paper Sticky Window. What makes this contact paper art so unique is the sticky surface where kids will be creating.

Contact Paper Art - Create a sticky window using contact paper and tissue paper. Fabulous sensory idea!

Color Sorting Activities

I've already mentioned my love of the Wilton silicone cupcake cups.  Well, I found another use for them - color sorting activities.  We sorted pom poms by color and the cups made handy holders for all the pom poms.  This had originally started out as an activity where they transferred the pom poms using the tweezers but they got tired of that after a while and continued with their hands. I also had some silicone ice cube trays I got at the dollar store.  The girls liked challenging themselves to put one pom pom in each spot. You'll love how easy it is to create color sorting activities at home. If your kids are learning about colors, you may also want to check out this Fine Motor Activity with Playdough and Q-tips.

Toddler Color Sorting Activities - simple ways for toddlers to learn about colors.

Food Fun

When I have time, I like to make mealtimes a little more fun for my girls. I have picky eaters and for some reason they are more prone to eat something when it is in a funny shape or presented in a creative way. There are some people doing amazingly fun and creative things with food. One of my favorites is Muffin Tin Mom.

While I am not as creative as all that, I do like to change things up at mealtime once in a while.

Here are a few easy ones I have done over the past few weeks.

Toy Sorting Activity

Today I will share a fun toy sorting activity that will have the kids cleaning up and working on their sorting skills. I came across this toy sorting activity by accident.

Toy Sorting Activity - Kids can learn all about sorting (and cleaning) using their toys.

Painting Popcorn

My kids, like most, love painting. They also love popcorn. Where can I be going with this? Well, why not combine the two activities by painting popcorn! This kids activity is simple to prepare and keeps kids busy so that they will slow down and really chew their popcorn. We have also had fun with food by making yogurt covered berries on a stick and Marshmallow Sculptures.

Painting Popcorn activity - Kids will love painting their popcorn before they eat it. The paint is simple to make and edible.

If you are interested in purchasing supplies for this activity, affiliate links are located at the end of this post.

Fine Motor Skills Activity with Tongs

B has been working on improving her hand strength and fine motor skills.  I have tried a variety of tweezers/tongs and they all have proved relatively challenging for her.  I found these wooden tongs at Cost Plus World Market and they are much easier for her to manipulate.  I created an easy fine motor skills activity using tongs, pom poms and paint palette trays. These skills are so important for kids this age which is why we have done Fine Motor Practice with Straws and Tracing with Yarn.

Fine Motor Skills Activity with Tongs - Kids transfer pom poms using a pair of tongs.


Welcome to the inaugural post of Mess For Less!  I have decided to join the already over-saturated blogosphere.  I have been inspired by the online mamas who have posted such wonderful ideas, activities and just general child rearing tips.  You all have helped me fill those hours when I had three screaming kids and needed something to distract and entertain them.  My goal with this new blog is to share some of my favorite ideas for toddlers and bigger kids.  I want to provide you with activities and crafts that you can do with your little ones that are fun, easy, and cheap.  Along the way I'll throw in some money saving tips and tricks.  Join me on this adventure!  My husband doesn't think I'll last more than 2 weeks.