10 Ways to Boost the Power of Playdough

Developing Fine Motor Skills Series from @happybrownhouse www.happybrownhouse.com

Whether you love it or cringe at the thought of cleaning it up, there’s no denying playdough and fine motor skills go hand in hand. Poking, squishing, and rolling “snakes” are important work for little finger muscles on the road to learning to write. The irresistible dough gives little hands lots of practice in mobility and grasping before they even pick up their first pencil. In a way, playing with playdough can directly impact your child’s writing skills.

As adults, I think we often limit the possibilities for playdough play to cookie cutters and “snakes”. While these are fun and needed skills, there are a ton of ways to give your playdough time an extra fine motor boost by adding a few simple household items to the table.

10 Ways to Boost the Power of Playdough from @happybrownhouse

1. I love to add plastic knives, pizza cutters, and child-safe scissors to the table when playing with playdough. It is easier for little hands to manipulate these tools with the soft material and gives them a chance to practice using these tools safely.

Cutting Playdough with plastic knives

2. Hide marbles or beads in the playdough. Let your child pinch and pull the dough with tweezers until they find them.

3. Use a pencil to practice making writing marks in the playdough.

4. Use playdough mats to target certain learning skills.

Playdough Mats

5. Have your child roll the playdough into small balls. Then, use toothpicks to build structures. The playdough balls can serve as the corner joints.

6. Place a toothpick in a ball of playdough and have your child thread beads or cheerios onto the toothpick. This is also great to practice counting number sets!

threading beads on a toothpick for playdough fine motor skills practice

7. Add straws to the playdough. Draw a letter, number, or shape for the children to push the straws in along the lines like this Playdough Prewriting Activity from Kids Activities Blog.

8. Use a plastic hammer to pound golf tees into the playdough (similar to our Pound the Sound activity). Make sure to place a cookie sheet under this activity to save your table. :) After the golf tees are pounded in, have your little one balance marbles on the end for an extra fine motor punch.

9. Use stamps (minus the ink) to make impressions in the playdough.

10. Use common household items like a hole punch, garlic press, cookie scoop, etc. If you don’t want to use the ones in your kitchen drawer, you can find these at the Dollar Store. Place them in a plastic tub and store for next time.


Our Favorite Homemade Playdough Recipe and Printable

My Playdough Pinterest Board

This post is a part of the 10 day series, Developing Fine Motor Skills. This series is part of the iHomeschool Network Hopscotch. To see the list of the topics from the other bloggers, visit iHomeschool Network. There are some fantastic topics and giveaways!

Don’t want to miss a post in the series? Subscribe by email or RSS. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

Linking up with Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings

10 Ways To Encourage A Home-bound Friend

While this post is highlighting ideas for someone home-bound, the ideas on this list could be used for all sorts of things! Encourage a mother-to-be on bed rest, a friend in the hospital, a family with a newborn, someone that doesn’t have family nearby, etc. As my blogging friend Laura so beautifully wrote, “Compassion is the beginning of love, and without love we are nothing.” So, go spread some love!

Feet in the circle
1. Take them a meal–Check for dietary restrictions or cravings first! For me, it spoke volumes that a friend brought us dinner last week.  Since I can’t stomach cooking without getting sick yet, it gave my husband a break for one night…priceless! When we had Jonah, our church family brought meals for 2 weeks! If you have a reason to organize a large number of meals for a friend, try using TakeThemAMeal.com

2.  Send them a card–Seriously, how easy is that?!? Let them know that you’re thinking of them. Trust me, REAL mail is so much better than a message on Facebook!

3.  Call them–Chances are, if they will be home-bound for long, they’ll get lonely and need some conversation.

4.  Offer to watch their children–It doesn’t have to be for long, even just a morning playdate will be greatly appreciated. When Mommy gets sick it’s a hard thing to entertain little ones well. Chances are, the kids need a break, too! (A sweet friend took Jonah last Friday morning for a few hours….pure bliss for everyone!)

5.  Take them a “Survival Kit” stocked full of snacks, their favorite magazine or a new book, some fun new socks, fancy lotions, etc.

6.  Take a movie to their house and watch it with them. Bring a snack they’re craving.

7.  Do something for their caregiver. Give them a break. Offer to help while they go run errands.

8.  Offer to pick up something from the store for them. (I seriously could have used this a few weeks ago for Ray’s birthday & Valentine’s Day. Instead, I handed him an I.O.U. Real romantic of me, huh?)

9.  Offer to drive them to an appointment or through the drive-thru for a milkshake . (Since I’m currently not allowed to drive while on this crazy cocktail of medication, I think this would be awesome!)

10.  Offer to help them clean their house. Most likely they’ll refuse, but you would be an awesome friend to load the dishwasher and run the vacuum. :)

A note for my “In Real Life Friends” that might be reading: This is in no way a plea for you to come to my house and clean. It’s just a general suggestion for people who might need an idea on how to encourage a home-bound friend. I’m fine. Carry on…unless you feel like bringing me a strawberry milkshake and french fries :)

10 Easy Last Minute Advent Calendars

Are you hoping to add a little more fun and family time to your Christmas activities this year? Me too! I’ve been on the hunt for some quick and easy last minute Advent Calendars to help our family countdown to Christmas and I thought I would share…

10 Easy Last Minute Advent Calendars:

1.  Free Jesse Tree Advent Devotional Book: Enjoy daily devotions as a family as you work through significant events throughout the Old Testament–each pointing to the Messiah! Each reading is followed by a small action to to apply and live out the day’s devotional. Brought to you by Ann Voskamp from A Holy Experience…enough said?

2.  I L-O-V-E the Printable Advent Calendar from Everyday Celebrations on Etsy. So adorable & easy to make!

Photo Credit: Everyday Celebrations on Etsy

3.  Chocolate on my Cranium has 2 Printable Advent Calendars that are super simple to make. Print, Cut, Glue—-perfect for the non-crafty types.

4.  The Last Minute Printable Advent Calendar at Skip To My Lou is easy to make with envelopes, clothespins, and string.

5.  The kids will love Jan Brett’s Printable Advent Calendar

6.  Simple Spool Advent Calendar from Just Something I Made–you may not have vintage spools hanging around, but I have seen wooden spools at the local craft store in the unfinished wood crafting section.

Photo Credit: Just Something I Made

7.  Wrap up 25 Christmas books and number them. Place in a basket and read one each night. (If you don’t have 25 Christmas books, just pick some family favorites! The kids will love the mystery! Need another Christmas book to add to your collection? Enter my giveaway!)

8.  Use your kids {clean} socks for A Stocking Countdown Calendar from Family Fun. Easy!!

Photo Credit: Family Fun

9.  What if you put candy or trinkets inside toilet paper tubes? Wrap them in tissue paper and tie ribbon on each end. Number them 1-25. Voila! (Wait, you mean I’m the only one that has 25 empty toilet paper tubes saved for a rainy day project?)

10.  Don’t forget the childhood favorite—Paper Chain Countdown we made as kids! Cut strips of paper and write fun family activities on the back of each paper strip. Staple the ends together in a chain.

Get started….tomorrow is December 1st, the day the countdown begins!

Top Ten Ways to Give this Holiday Season

I know you are still finishing off the last of the candy corn, but the holiday season is here! For some, the holidays mean family gatherings, presents, and lots of yummy treats. While we love all of those things, too, in the Happy Brown House, the holiday season also means GIVING!

This year our family wants to be intentional about giving and making a big impact. We’ve been praying and planning about what and where God wants us to give. I thought I’d share some ideas on our list to help get you thinking, too…

1. Sponsor a child through Compassion International!

2. Pack a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child! Collection Week is November 15-22

3. Donate to The Mercy House Kenya or purchase a Christmas gift from their Etsy shop! (Have I mentioned how much I love my necklace? I do. I plan outfits around it…Seriously.)

4. Give Water! Take your pick….Blood:Water Mission, Living Water International, Charity:Water

5. Pick a local family to bless! (Ask a church or school to help you connect with a needy family)

6. Volunteer to serve a meal at your local homeless shelter.

7. Pick a name from the “Angel Tree”. Have your children help choose the name and gifts!

8. Volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House! Can you imagine how hard it must be to have a sick child during the holidays? Go love on these families!

9. Visit a shut-in. Give them the gift of conversation or offer to help them with a household project.

10. Give a copy of your favorite book to a classroom.

11. Fill in the blank: ________ I’m sure you’ve got ideas, too. Share them with me in the comments!

How are you planning to give?

10 Ideas for Frugal Fall Fun

  1. Go Apple Picking! Last year, we canned homemade applesauce. We’re still enjoying last year’s bounty! You can find local orchards at by searching on pickyourown.org
  2. Go Pumpkin Picking! Most places have hayrides and other fun things going on. You can also search for this on pickyourown.org
  3. Visit the local Farmer’s Market or Craft Fair! This weekend our Sunday newspaper had a list of the area’s Fairs & Festivals from September to December. I’ve highlighted the ones I want to try to visit and wrote them on the calendar. Most are free or cheap! Sometimes it’s just fun to get out and look around!
  4. Take a scenic drive! We live in East Tennessee and love to drive through the mountains. In just a few weeks the leaves will be turning and I can’t wait!
  5. Take a picnic to a local park. Now that the weather will be cooling off (fingers crossed), you’ll be able to enjoy staying outside longer!
  6. Try geocaching! This is something I’ve been wanting to try out. The only equipment you need is a GPS. If you have boys, they would definitely get into this treasure hunting experience!
  7. Be a “tourist in your own town” and explore! Chattanooga (where we live) has all sorts of fun things to do, it’s just a matter of seeking them out.
  8. Rake leaves…and jump in them! Better yet, rake leaves for an elderly person and teach your children about serving others!
  9. Go camping! Even if it’s only in your backyard, it would be so much fun and makes memories!
  10. Go to a drive-in movie! We’ve got one in the area, but it was just too hot during the summer time. Now that it is cooling off, we’ll head on over.

oops…I had a few more ideas!
11. Take advantage of Fall Carnivals put on schools or churches! Kids & Carnival Games…need I say more?
12. Community Football Games! If you don’t have a player in your family, maybe someone you know has a kid in a football league you could go watch.
13. Get a head start on homemade Christmas gifts! So many of us vow to make gifts, but then wait till the last minute to get started. Why not start early and breath easier during the over-scheduled holiday season? Here’s a tutorial to help get you started: Handprint Snowmen Ornament