Find us on Surprisingly Special

As of 2016, this blog, Pancakes in Bed, is no longer active. Please come find us at!!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween! Ending the Countdown with a Pumpkin Hunt

Happy Halloween!!!

We've got a big day ahead of us. Starting with Krispy Kreme Halloween donuts. Serious business. Then, we are braving the Giants parade with the babies! - I know, we are crazy. But I feel like it's a good kind of crazy ;) And tonight we are getting together with friends for a Halloween party and our kids' first time trick-or-treating.

I saved my favorite Halloween play idea for this last countdown post. It's my favorite because it's so simple, but it's so fun with Calvin because he really gets a kick out of it... it's Pumpkin Hunting!!

At Easter, Calvin loved hunting for eggs. So I just knew he'd love hunting for pumpkins too! And he does!

I bought 5 little pumpkins (Calvin calls them "baby pumpkins") and while Calvin was napping, I hid them around the living room. 

Henry found one! 

After Calvin got up from his nap (and went potty... and had a snack... and I put Henry down for a nap...) he started his pumpkin hunt! I put a basket on the table in the middle of the room for him to collect the pumpkins in.

Check out that bed-head!

Yaaaaay Calvin! What a cute cheeky guy.

Once he found all five, he wanted to play again, so I made him go into the kitchen (which in our apartment is really the same room, just on the other side of the couch) while I hid the pumpkins again. This was the hardest part! He kept peeking while I was trying to hide them! #cheating

Here is an awesome-hilarious-adorable-kind-of-long video of our second go at pumpkin hunting. I did say that he loves pumpkin hunting... I never said he was good  at it ;)

Cracks me up every time I watch this!!

We played Pumpkin Hunt over and over again this week and I definitely ran out of sneaky hiding places in our living room!

I think this would make a fun party game for a small group of kids if you used a few more pumpkins. You could even do something like mark them with numbers to correspond with prizes.

Happy Hunting and Happy Halloween!!

Here are more posts from this series of Halloween-themed play ideas:

Monster Bowling

Funny Felt Monsters

Perfect Pour Pumpkins

Spooky Sensory Bottles

Spiders in Shaving Cream

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Halloween Countdown: Batty Zip-lines

Halloween is tomorrow y'all!! Happy Halloween Eve ;)

And THE GIANTS WON THE WORLD SERIES!!! Woo hoo! So proud of my home team!

Ok back to Halloween. I may have gone a little batty myself when I dreamed this one up... Here's today's Halloween-themed play idea: Batty Zip-lines!

My original idea was to do a zip-line with ghosts. But then I felt like that might be hard to explain to Calvin and possibly a little scary for him... so I went with bats. A totally real nocturnal mammal that happens to be associated with Halloween. Very science-y. Completely legit. Bats it is!

Teacher friends, this would have been much easier if I'd had access to a die-cut machine. As it was, I had to draw a bat shape myself. It turned out totally decent. Kind of like the Batman's bat symbol... maybe that is because I slept through watched (half of) (ok, a third of) the old school Michael Keaton Batman movie the night before I made these.

I drew & cut out a bat using scrap paper, then took a piece of Halloween scrapbook paper and folded it in half "like a hot dog" - teacher friends, you guys reading this?? ;) - and traced the bat onto the scrapbook paper.

That gave me two cute little bats! (It's the same paper, it has a different pattern on each side.) For the lines I used regular party ribbon because I have this giant spool of it. And at first I was going to attach the end of the line to a wall or shelf or something, but then I got the idea to put knots or knobs on the end of the string so we could just hold the zip-lines without having to re-thread the bats. So, yes, those are the caps from squeeze-packs of toddler/baby food... the caps that the packaging specifically tells you to keep away from the kiddies because they are choking hazards... Um, we use them anyway for color sorting and stuff and they worked well for this. Just don't let your kids put them in their mouths OK?! You could also use big beads or buttons or tie big knots. And don't let your kids put the beads or buttons in their mouths either ;) 

I cut the straw into pieces and taped one on each bat body. Then I threaded a length of string through each one and tied a cap to each end of string. I made one longer one that Calvin and I can use together, and one short one that he can play with by himself.

Here's Calvin checking out the little one.

And here's the best I could do for a pic of us using the big one...

Henry thought the Batty Zip-line was pretty sweet too.

And I think James and Hartley liked it even more than the kids. (World Series post game is on in the background :))

Later, James was trying to think of ways to add weight to the bats to make them fly even faster. There was also talk of attaching a balloon to propel the bat... Lots of science-y stuff that you could tie into this one!

Here are more posts from this series of Halloween-themed play ideas:

Monster Bowling

Funny Felt Monsters

Perfect Pour Pumpkins

Spooky Sensory Bottles

Spiders in Shaving Cream

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Halloween Countdown: Jello-ween Sensory Play

2 days 'til Halloween!

Here's another squishy-ishy messy sensory play idea:

Icky, sticky day-glo orange jello... with a spidery infestation! Calvin is loving these little toy spiders. He was excited to see them again in the jello. Of course, with this activity you could put any little toys in the jello - or even pieces of fruit. That's called a jello salad - right? Isn't that a thing? I've definitely seen scarier versions of Halloween jello... stuff like candy eyeballs in red jello... Gives me the creeps just thinking about it! I think plastic spiders are plenty spooky for us!!

Look at that dimple! He was excited ;)

He's telling me there are spiders (using his voice and his sign for spider).

The spiders floated to the top, which I was kind of disappointed about. I was hoping they'd be submerged in the jello. Didn't matter to Calvin. I made a separate smaller dish of spidery jello for Henry to play with in his high chair.

He looks so goofy here! But look! He's pulling a spider out! That's a big deal for his fine motor skills!

Captain Obvious: If you're doing this activity with littles who can't be trusted not to eat the toys, be sure the toys aren't a choking hazard. These spiders were big enough that I wasn't worried. Plus, if Henry actually managed to pick one up and put it in his mouth... 1. It would be a miracle. And 2. There's no way he'd be able to get it to the back of his mouth to swallow it. His eating skills aren't that mature. But that's just Henry :)

Calvin can be trusted not to eat spiders - real or fake! But I did let him know it was safe to eat the jello...

You want some??

Just kidding. He wasn't actually offering me jello. He had just discovered that he could pick up chunks of it. I gave them spoons to try and scoop it. Henry was more interested in chewing on his spoon.

I think Calvin is making a face here because I was asking him to use his left hand - the one that's been in a sling for a month. He's still getting used to using it again.

Calvin didn't actually eat much of it. He didn't seem to like it! I don't blame him... I am not a fan of eating jello either. But I do think it makes for a nice sensory play material. It's an unusual texture, it comes in bright colors, and - even if you don't like it - it's edible.

The thing that strikes me as I look at these pictures is that Calvin did not make a mess of it at all! Same with the shaving cream yesterday. I think that says something about his comfort level with squishy textures. With dry things like rice, beans, or sand he gets it everywhere. Like Ev. Ry. Where. He's got this new (annoying) thing about throwing sand at the playground. Totally dangerous, but part of me hates to stop him because I think he really likes how it feels to scatter it around (don't worry, I still stop him). But he is weird about squishy stuff! He's like me and he doesn't like it! And I suppose in a way it's nice to have a kid that's not going to smear spaghetti sauce all over the table... But we'll keep doing squishy sensory play from time to time. It'll be good for both of us!

How do your kids feel about squishy stuff??

Here are more posts from this series of Halloween-themed play ideas:

Monster Bowling

Funny Felt Monsters

Perfect Pour Pumpkins

Spooky Sensory Bottles

Spiders in Shaving Cream

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Halloween Countdown: Spiders in Shaving Cream

3 days 'til Halloween!

And next up on my countdown of Hallowen-themed play ideas is... Spiders in Shaving Cream!

Super simple and easy. I had bought shaving cream a few weeks ago to let Calvin play with. I used to use shaving cream when I taught first grade as part of a "hands-on spelling" center where each week the kids would have a different way to practice their spelling words via some sensory play. They would do things like fingerpaint their spelling words, make the words out of play-dough, or spell out the words with pipe cleaners. With the shaving cream, they'd smear some shaving cream on the table and use a finger to write their words in the cream. The kids always loved playing with the shaving cream so I figured Calvin would be into it too!

I opted for a tray rather than put the shaving cream right on the table. I used the old school Barbasol shaving cream and sprayed it into a spider-web design. As you can see, it turned out beautifully. (Haha just kidding, it looks like a mess!!)

Calvin was clearly unsure about whether this white foamy stuff was safe to touch. Still, he cautiously helped me place the spiders on the web. Then I convinced him to try pushing the spiders down into the shaving cream. 

If I wanted him to get messy, I knew I'd have to get messy too! Full disclosure, I have some tactile sensitivities myself... in other words, I do not like getting messy!  But, I don't want Calvin to have issues with certain textures or be afraid to get his hands messy, so I am getting over my own sensory aversions and getting down with some sensory play!

I don't have pics of us getting really messy because it was just the two of us and I didn't want to touch the camera with my hands covered in shaving cream :) So you will just have to take my word for it that I smushed and smeared and squeezed and squished that shaving cream with Calvin!

We had buried the spiders in the fluff, so then we decided to dig them out and collect them in a cup.

When I washed my hands to take more pictures, Calvin wanted me to clean his hands too. Being fussy about needing to have clean hands is one of those things I am hoping to avoid in his toddlerhood... but I wiped his hands anyway to humor him, and then I put the camera down and we both got messy again ;) Shaving cream was a very new sensory experience for him and I was proud of him for going for it! He did make like he was going to lick his hand at first, but I stopped him and explained that it was not food. He didn't try again, but this is exactly why I did this activity while Henry was asleep - Henry can't be trusted not to eat the shaving cream!

When we had dug all the spiders out, we took everything into the bathroom and washed the tray and the spiders.

Shaving cream is pretty fun to play with all by itself, or you can hide any kind of little toys in it and dig them out. Of course, if you wanted something similar, but edible I suppose you could go for whipped cream instead! Though I think whipped cream would start to melt in your hands...

Also, pumpkin pulp makes for an awesome, unique sensory experience. You can let your kids help you dig it out with their hands and pull the seeds out for roasting... that is, if they are willing to touch it at all, which Calvin was not!

I don't wanna touch that stuff!!

Um... Dad? Are you sure that stuff is safe??

Check out the other posts in my Halloween Countdown for more Halloween-y play ideas!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Halloween Countdown: Spooky Sensory Bottles

4 days 'til Halloween!

Yesterday we finally got those big pumpkins carved! Calvin and I had painted the little ones, of course, and James and Hartley (our cousin) carved the big ones. Check 'em out!!

In case you don't recognize him, this is Buddy the T-Rex
from the show Dinosaur Train, which is Calvin's latest TV obsession :)

Go Giants!! Another World Series win last night!! #yesyesyes

Today's Halloween play idea is Spooky Sensory Bottles!

When Calvin was about 9 months old, I made him a set of sensory bottles. Recently, I pulled them out for Henry and realized that they are actually too heavy and fat for him to pick up because of his hypotonia and delayed motor skills.

"It's great and all, mom, but I bet it'd be more fun if I could pick it up..."
So I decided to make a new set for Henry using different bottles. And I thought it would be a nice opportunity to tie in a Halloween theme :)

We have lots of these "baby soda bottles" around because James is a homebrewer and his brewer's yeast comes in them. They are great for sensory bottles. The clear ones are best, but all the ones we had happen to be tinted gray... I used them anyway rather than buying anything new. They're a really nice size and shape for Henry to pick up and manipulate.

I mostly used things I already had in my craft supplies, but I did buy some little plastic pumpkins (they were called "table scatter" and they were in the dollar section at Target) and some little plastic spiders.

Here's a description for each bottle that I made (from left to right):

1. corn syrup + multicolored sequins
I think sequins are the best filler for a corn syrup sensory bottle because they are light and they move easily through the thick syrup. Heavier items tend to clump up or not move around much.

2. water + fine purple glitter + pearl beads

3. water + coarse green glitter + star sequins + one plastic spider
The spider is really too big, so it doesn't move. It's stuck there in the middle. But I actually like it that way with the glitter and the stars floating around it.

4. water + fine green glitter + plastic pumpkins
This light green glitter looks like kind of a sickly pea soup shade in the gray bottle. But I figure that makes it more spooky, right?

5. corn syrup + red food coloring + yellow food coloring + purple buttons
This one was inspired by the book/movie Coraline... and by my insistence on using stuff I already had on hand ;) The buttons are pretty heavy for the corn syrup, though. They don't move around much.

Here are all the materials I used to fill the bottles:

Not Pictured: Water ;)
Some notes & tips for making your own sensory bottles:

- When you add food coloring to corn syrup, it will take a while to diffuse. So for a while, it will look all cool like this:

But it won't stay that way. As you play with it and flip it over and over, eventually the syrup will be completely colored.

- When you add glitter to water it will look all clumpy and weird at first. Just give it a few good shakes and it will loosen up. The finer the glitter, the more clumpy it will be.

- When adding sequins or other items to corn syrup, less is more. It's really cool to watch them slowly ooze from one end of the bottle to the other... but if you put too many bigger items inside, they can get clogged up and stuck. And if you put too many sequins or too much glitter, it will diffuse throughout the syrup and you won't be able to see them ooze from one end to the other.

- Don't fill them up to the brim. You want the liquid to be able to move around, so you'll need an air bubble. Leave some room at the top of your bottles before you cap them. I like to leave a bigger bubble in the corn syrup tubes than in the water tubes.

- Don't be afraid to dump it and start over, or make changes as you go. That orange tube kept looking too dark to me, so I kept pouring some out and adding more clear syrup to lighten it. The one with the sequins had too many sequins at first so I did the same thing: I poured a bunch out and added plain syrup.

- Glue them closed. You can put a couple of dots of super glue on the threads and then screw the caps on. I learned the hard way when Calvin was capable of unscrewing a cap!

The kids both love these new sensory bottles! Actually, the grown-ups around here kind of love them too ;)

Check out my other Halloween Countdown posts for more toddler/baby play ideas!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Lions, Tigers, and Bears at the Zoo

I looooove taking the boys to the zoo. And they love it too! Especially Calvin. Calvin just loves animals and Henry has started to show interest in looking at the animals too (though I think Henry is more entertained by the fish at the aquarium). For me, strolling around the zoo with the babies looking at all the animals is a relaxing way to spend half a day. We are lucky to have such a nice zoo nearby and we live close enough that it's no problem to go a couple of times a month. (We have a yearly membership and it's so worth it!)

Since Calvin loves animals so much I knew that animal costumes would be the way to go for Halloween, but I felt like it was boring for us to all be the same animal. So I did some Pinterest searching and got this idea to do lions, tigers and bears as a family costume theme! I talked to Calvin about it and he said that he wanted to be the lion and he wanted Henry to be the tiger. The plan was for me to be a bear, and for James to wear a shirt that says "Oh my!" Cute right??

So with our animal costumes, and our animal-loving kids, what better place to go to a Halloween party than the zoo?! I've been looking forward to Boo at the Zoo, San Francisco Zoo's Halloween event, all month. And today was finally the day!

The babies wore their lion and tiger costumes, but I had failed to make James' "Oh my" shirt... so instead we both wore some bear ears leftover from Henry's Teddy Bear Picnic birthday party so that we could be bears together. Calvin and Henry got lots of compliments on their cuteness ;) But I think very few people got our theme... we needed that "Oh my!" shirt! Oh well, I'll make sure we have it for Friday. 



And bears! Oh my!!
For the Boo at the Zoo event, there were special tents set up with crafts and give-aways as well as an area for performers like a puppet show and a magician. Around the zoo there were stations where kids could trick-or-treat for candy and snacks. I mostly just wanted an excuse to bring the boys to the zoo in their animal costumes ;) 

We even took the boys on the carousel for the first time! (Actually, Calvin had been on the carousel with his Granny and Danpa... but this was his first time with his mom and dad!) I was so excited to ride the carousel with Calvin and Henry and they were fascinated by it.

More Halloween fun to come this week! #Ihearthalloween