Forcing the Bloom

Happy, Healthy Mommy Blog


Using Puzzles for Scissor, Sorting and Tracing Activities

Maybe you don’t need to consign those old puzzles just yet…

This Melissa & Doug puzzle is not a challenge for my toddler anymore.  It’s perfect for my 8 month old.  I found a way, however, to expand its use and let my toddler get more out of it.  Here are some ideas for this puzzle…


1.) We drew shapes on construction paper so that the shapes and colors matched the spots on the puzzle.  First we practiced cutting the shapes to match the puzzle pieces.


2.) Then we matched the cut out shapes with the puzzle holes.  (You can also count them as you go.)



3.) Last we used the big puzzle pieces to practice tracing shapes with crayons.  The big knobs were very helpful!

I wonder what else we can come up with for our other puzzles!

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Observing Your Child

Do you observe your child?  When I say “observing” I mean quietly and consciously watching your child during free play while you take note of his or her interests and behavior.  Observing my toddler is a daily goal.  I never would have thought of this if I hadn’t been studying the Montessori approach to learning.  I know Montessori teachers at our school observe the children and take notes so why not try it at home?

After I’ve observed B for a while, whether inside and outside, I jot down things that struck me about his playtime.  What was he MOST interested in?  Why was it interesting to him?  Was there a commonality to his play choices?  Did he ask for any assistance?  How long was he engaged in the activity?  Was he talking to himself or quiet?  Did he change the activity in any way?  I also take note of the conditions – whether he was tired, at home, happy, etc.  It has been the process of actually writing down what I see that has opened my eyes.

In the last week, I’ve noted that B gets really absorbed in small car play.  He reenact stories from books that we read.  He also likes to put things inside of other objects and watch them fall through, such as ball shoots or water funnels.  He loves pushing the stroller around and doing most any activity around our home where he can “help.”  With this information and other things I’ve observed, I can better pick out activities and toys for B.  I can also better plan his day and help him when he seems frustrated or ready for something new.  Essentially, it makes his and my life EASIER.


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Easy Busy Toddler Activities – Egg/Spoon Races, Moving Marbles and Sifting Flour

Grab a spoon and go!  I love our new game of racing plastic eggs on large kitchen spoons.  B yells, “RACE!”  And B can’t get enough of transferring marbles with the wooden, toaster tongs.  I keep watching him to see why he likes it so much.  Maybe it’s the shape and color of the marbles.  We have also been working on cracking eggs this week.  B LOVED cracking the eggs into a bowl and wanted to practice on all the eggs.  I had to explain why we needed to save some – it’s always for Daddy or Papa.  He’s okay with saving some for them.  Earlier in the week we sifted flour.  This activity keeps him busy for a very long time and he becomes completely engrossed (also covered with flour).  Also, B enjoys pictures of himself that I post on the refrigerator.  He likes to take them down and talk about them (himself).  These were the top hits for this week and they were super easy!  What are your kids playing with this week?

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Art Around the Home

I’ve noticed my almost 26-month old toddler is spending more time on art projects.  Maybe it’s a boy thing, but he wasn’t that interested before now.  In the past, he would spent only a couple of minutes painting or coloring.  Just last week he asked for his paints and worked on filling up the entire paper with two colors!  He was very proud of his art work and quickly showed Daddy as soon as he came home.  Recently, we also filled water bottles and added food coloring.  We watched the dye disperse into the water and looked at the bottles held up to the light.  B will often go over to the chalkboard and doodle.  I love seeing him drawing circles.  We make sure to display his artwork around the home, as well as posters of famous pieces of artwork.  I have the Mono Lisa and some Van Gogh up in his bedroom.  I’m looking for new ideas.  What is your favorite way to support an interest in art around the home?

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Science vs. Art

We enjoyed our visit with family in St. Louis, Missouri.  We visited the St. Louis Science Center.  Even though B is only 22 months, there were lots of things for him to see and do.  It basically was a great place to run and play on a cold, winter day.  But watch out for those dinosaurs!  They were scary.  Sometimes it’s nice to be needed.  As we were walking (running) around the Science Center, I started wondering if we were encouraging science over the arts.  We could have gone to the art museum or the history museum, but instead we chose the science center.  I actually didn’t even consider the art museum.  We probably would have gone to the zoo if it was warmer.  So maybe it was more  a factor of B’s age and the need to be loud and run.  In either case, my goal is to be more aware of B’s interests.  Right now, it’s all about transportation!  I like that our Montessori school allows for student/child independence and freedom to choose their own activities.  My goal is to incorporate those ideas into our home as well.  You can check out my at home Montessori activities in my other posts.

Does your family lean more towards the arts or science?  How about sports?

Here are a few pictures from our trip!

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Toddler Activities with Egg Cartons

It is especially fun to create toddler activities with recycled trash!  Cheap, homemade (of sorts) and DIY are some of my favorite descriptions for toddler activities.  So, egg cartons are perfect!  I keep a stack of different kinds of egg cartons in my craft cupboard.  They are great for sorting, counting, and art activities.  They are also great for holding small items and organizing your drawers or cupboards.  Ice cube trays also serve similar purposes.  Here are some basic activities with egg cartons but you can do so much more!  One-to-one correspondence activities such as placing wooden balls, puff balls or wiffle balls in cartons are early math activities.  You can also color code the egg baskets or assign numbers or letters.  You can use them for more complex sorting or use them as paint dishes.  I still remember uses egg cartons when I was in elementary school for painting projects.

Here is B (21 months old) is placing wooden balls in a 6-egg carton.  He did NOT like the activity with puff balls so try different materials and don’t get discouraged.  I usually have to introduce an activity several times before B wants to try it.  We counted each ball as he placed them in the carton.  I’ve seen other people write numbers or letters on the balls and in the cartons for a matching activity.  We’ll build up to that.


egg carton activities from forcingthebloom

egg carton activities from forcingthebloom












Here is B with a 12-egg carton.  He enjoyed filling it with wiffle balls.  No puff balls, please!  Maybe it’s boy thing?   A major part of the activity is taking the carton off the shelf and putting it back when B is done.  He knows he can’t get something new until he puts everything back.  The practice of moving things on and off the shelf helps with body control.

egg carton activities from forcingthebloom

egg carton activities from forcingthebloom












Here are some more ideas from other Montessori mamas using egg cartons !

Living Montessori Now  – Color Walk

Our Natural Journey  – Repurposing Egg Cartons

Kindergarten Basics – Upcycle Egg Cartons to Building Blocks + links to many other egg carton ideas!

Gift of Curiosity – Math with Egg Cartons + several other cool Montessori activities

Any other ideas?  How have you used your egg cartons?

We’ll revisit this theme again in the Spring!  Say, around Easter time!  You, me and that crazy Easter bunny.  This will be the first year B really gets to open Christmas presents and will understand the idea of an Easter egg hunt.  Can’t wait!  Have a Merry Christmas!!

Christmas Tree from forcingthebloom

Christmas Tree from forcingthebloom





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Homemade Bread for the Holidays Starts with Yeast Starter!

I’ve always wanted to know how to make homemade bread!  It’s healthier, cheaper and it tastes better than store bought bread.  Plus, it’s oh so good when it comes out of the oven hot!  When I visited my Aunt Karen (queen of all things homemade) she gave me some yeast starter.  She has cultivated this yeast starter for more than 20 years!  Needless to say, I handled it with care!  I carried a 1/4 cup of yeast starter in a plastic dish on the plane home and grew it into 1 1/2 cups by slowing adding more whole wheat and water.  I left the glass dish of yeast starter on the counter and added the wheat and water in the same ratio that was in the dish.  So, if you have a 1/4 cup of yeast starter you add 1/4 cup of dry wheat and 1/4 cup of water.  When the starter begins to bubble, you add more.  It took me a couple of days to go from 1/4 cup of yeast starter to 1 1/2 cups.  If you are interested in making your own starter, check out  It’s basically just flour and water!  The benefits of using the yeast starter is that it’s MUCH easier to make the bread!  Ounce I had 1 1/2 cups of yeast starter, I was ready to make 2 loaves of bread.  Imagine, you grow the yeast starter during the week and then ounce a week you make 2 loaves of healthy, hot, homemade bread!  And you know there are no chemicals or weird stuff in there.  Plus, it tastes better!  And you can experiment with different type os dough.  I also find it very therapeutic to kneed dough.  A little added benefit.  Make sure to reserve about 1/4 cup of starter for next time!  You MUST keep feeding the starter to keep it active.  It will keep inactive (without you adding more) for about 1 week in the refrigerator or about 1 day on the counter.

Here is the recipe for homemade bread with yeast starter (it’s easier with the yeast starter!):

1 to 1 1/2 cups of starter

3 cups of water (room temp.)

1/2 cup gluten or a cup of white flour

1 TB maple syrup (optional)

add enough flour to make an elastic dough ball (several cups) (I use whole wheat, but you can use white, or part white)

you can also add a 1/3 cup ground flax seed or chia seeds

Then, place the dough ball in a bowl on the counter covered with a towel for two to four hours (it can be flexible depending on your schedule).  Next, kneed the dough for about 5 min., divide in half and put into two loaf pans.  Slash the top of the loaves to encourage rising.  Allow dough to rise until doubled in size (usually two hours at the room temp.).  Then, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and carefully put raised loaves in the oven.  Cook for 40 min.  Enjoy!

Another option:  Roll out dough and top with cinnamon, brown sugar, nuts and re roll.  Then cut into cinnamon rolls!  Let them rise like bread and cook 25 min at 350.

Another option:  If you want to make crackers, roll the bread dough out as thin as you can and bake it at 350 till crisp (15 min.).  You can roll other spices into the crackers or sweeten.


Homemade Wheat Bread