DIY All-Natural Sensory Play Dough

DIY All-Natural Play Dough - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
Play dough is such a great learning activity for toddlers. Unfortunately, I am allergic to a lot of artificial dyes, and it appears that little E is allergic to some as well. I wanted to make him some homemade play dough with natural coloring so that he could play with it without any problems with allergic reactions. I used to buy natural food colors at Sur La Table (for cupcake frosting, etc.), but they have not restocked them in a really long time. Every time I asked about them, they just suggested that I order them online. I felt silly paying for shipping for something so small. Then I realized that the same natural food colors are available on Amazon.com, and they come with free shipping with our Prime membership (I cannot say enough good things about how much I absolutely love having that Amazon Prime membership…I use it for so many things)!

I was quite excited to get started with making some homemade play dough! I thought it would be even more fun to make a bunch of different scents with the dough, enhancing the sensory experience.

Here is the recipe I used:

2 cups flower
2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 cup sea salt

1. Mix all of the ingredients above into a pot on the stove, over medium-low heat.
2. Cook while stirring frequently, until the mixture resembles mashed potatoes.
3. Let mixture cool, then divide into 6 equal sized chunks.
4. Each chunk of dough got a different color and scent for a fun, sensory experience. I kneaded 3-5 drops of food coloring and 3 drops of essential oil into each chunk of dough.

Here are the color/scent combos that I used:
1. purple – doTERRA lavender essential oil
2. yellow – doTERRA lemon essential oil
3. pink – rose essential oil (purchased at Sprouts since doTERRA does not currently sell rose oil)
4. greenish blue – peppermint doTERRA essential oil
5. green – oregano doTERRA essential oil
6. orange – 1 pinch each cinnamon and nutmeg, to smell like pumpkin pie

Between uses, each ball of dough is stored in its own ziploc baggie in the refrigerator.

*Important safety warning: Since this recipe contains a significant amount of salt, do not let your child play with the play dough around dogs. Salt is toxic to dogs, and most dogs love to eat anything they can get their paws on. Our dogs are especially good at making sad puppy dog eyes at our son, manipulating him into giving them whatever they want, even when they are locked out of the room behind a baby gate. When our son is having sensory dough time, I lock our dogs outside or in one of our bedrooms. One of our dogs has tried a few times now to get E to give him the dough.

E’s favorite scents are the three that he is most familiar with from our garden: lavender, lemon, and rose. The oregano and pumpkin pie scented doughs are not his favorite…sometimes he is in the mood for those, other times those two get pushed away. Here is a funny video of him having so much fun smelling his dough. ๐Ÿ™‚

DIY All-Natural Play Dough - Alicia in Wonderland Blog DIY All-Natural Play Dough - Alicia in Wonderland Blog DIY All-Natural Play Dough - Alicia in Wonderland Blog DIY All-Natural Play Dough - Alicia in Wonderland Blog DIY All-Natural Play Dough - Alicia in Wonderland Blog DIY All-Natural Play Dough - Alicia in Wonderland Blog

*Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

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Our Little Minion on Halloween

On Halloween, we took E trick or treating in our neighborhood for the first time. My parents came over too to join in on the fun. E caught on pretty quickly about going up to the door and getting candy, which was pretty funny since he has only had candy on a very few occasions (we generally reserve anything with sugar for holidays or birthdays only now that we have this little guy around).

Below, E had a fun time getting candy with his Daddy and Grandpa. ๐Ÿ™‚

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After E got scared by one of our neighbors in a mask making a scary voice, we decided to check out the harvest festival at one of the churches down the street from our house. We all had so much fun there, and we are definitely planning to go back there next year (and skipping the door-to-door trick-or-treating until E is a bit older and less likely to get so scared).
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There was a country music cover band, and E had SO MUCH FUN dancing to the live music.
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Then he played a few games to get a bit more candy.
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Chipmunk face full of candy.
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He caught on that the more efficient he was with completing these games quickly, the more candy he would get, lol. So he was placing the bean bags in the holes repeatedly. Such a silly little guy.aliciainwonderlandblog aliciainwonderlandblog aliciainwonderlandblog aliciainwonderlandblog

Just in case you were wondering, E picked out his costume himself. ๐Ÿ™‚ I had plans originally to make the three of us costumes as Family Guy…who could resist a cute little guy with a big noggin? However when E and I were at the mall one day waiting for my cell phone screen to be replaced, he saw the minion costume and I knew my plans were trashed. As long as he was excited and had fun, that’s the important thing. ๐Ÿ™‚

$2 DIY Barn Toy

$2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog

Our little guy loves playing with his little farm animals, and I’ve been wanting to find him a little barn for them. I saw a DIY barn on Pinterest recently and it inspired me to make one myself for him. I didn’t have a big tea box to use like in that tutorial, so I started brainstorming about what else I had on hand that I could use. I started picturing some of our favorite barns that we’ve seen at some of the homes nearby, and I had a perfect idea…an empty juice container.

Here are the supplies you will need to make this super simple toy for your own little one:
1. empty juice or milk container
2. sheet of red corrugated 12″x12″ scrapbook paper (I purchased mine at Joann’s)
3. sheet of brown felt
4. sheet of sticky back, stiff white felt
5. glue gun
6. razor blade
7. scissors
8. ruler
9. duct tape

$2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
1. I started by thoroughly cleaning and drying the juice box.
2. Then I measured the width of one of the sides (4 inches). I cut up the length of 4 inches along three of the sides of the juice container, starting from the bottom. This created a flap to be the new bottom of the barn. I also cut off the plastic pour spout and trimmed off the tab at the very top of the container that makes the top a bit more pointy.

$2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
3. I used duct tape to close and secure the flap to make the new bottom.
$2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
4. My son actually picked out this red corrugated cardboard a long time ago when we were shopping for craft supplies, and I had no idea what we were going to use it for. Red is his favorite color, and the corrugated texture makes for a great sensory experience, so I was determined to find a use for it eventually. I realized that it would make the perfect “wood siding” for the barn. I measured the red paper to fit the sides of the carton, and glued on with the glue gun. $2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
5. Next I started with the roof. I used two sheets of felt, one sticky back white and one standard piece of brown felt. The white felt gives some much needed stiffness, and also gives the illusion of painted white trim around the roof. ๐Ÿ™‚
$2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
6. I measured out a piece of each felt for the roof, approximately 7″ x 5.5″. Then I stuck the brown felt to the sticky side of the white felt, and glued the whole thing on the roof with the glue gun.
$2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
7. Then I used more of the sticky white felt to create the barn doors. I sketched out my design on the back (paper covering the sticky side), and cut out with a razor blade (cut over a cutting board).

$2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
8. Here are the cut out doors. Next I put the doors on, using a tiny bit of glue from the glue gun.

$2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
9. Last step was cutting out the doors with the razor blade.

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My little guy immediately took the barn out of the sensory bin, but he has had tons of fun playing with it. He keeps singing E-I-E-I-O when he plays with it. ๐Ÿ™‚

Transitioning from Baby’s Nursery to Toddler’s Room

You may have seen my previous post about our son’s baby nursery design. Now that he is no longer a baby, I have made several changes to his room and wanted to do a follow up post with his updated room. One of the major changes was that I rearranged all of the furniture. I wanted to create a layout that gave him more room to play on the floor. Also, he started climbing up on the daybed to look out the window at the garden. Previously, the daybed was just on the edge of the window, so as soon as I saw him leaning over to look out the window, I started rearranging all of the furniture. We also found two cute rugs at Ikea that work well in the middle for a cozy play area.

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I wanted his toys to be organized and accessible for him, so I got the toy box at Ikea also, and ordered the toy hammock online to hold all of his stuffed animals (how did we accumulate so many of those so quickly?!).
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The picture frames are all empty for now, until I eventually get around to ordering prints (you would think we don’t have any pictures of our son or something with all of those empty frames!). The octopus kite was a cool vintage find in E’s favorite color, red. I let him pick out a plant for his room one day when we were out plant shopping, and he picked out a spider plant. ๐Ÿ™‚
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This wall has new items, all crafty things that E and I have made together. The weaving was our first craft project together. He handed me nails and helped me make the loom on the back of an old drawer, and helped me pick out yarn from the stash of yarn that I used for his newborn photoshoots.
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These are a couple of activity boards that I made for him. The one on the left is a little magnetic board, that we use with magnetic numbers and letters for learning time. The rest of the time, I keep the letters and numbers packed away since they just end up all over the house otherwise. ๐Ÿ™‚ The board on the right is an old cork board that I turned into a fun felt story board. I purchased some felt stickers of owls, fish, bees, and ladybugs at Joann’s Fabrics and then cut out some trees and a pond. I put Velcro on the back of the animals and bugs and E loves playing with them and moving them around. Sometimes the fish even end up in the trees. ๐Ÿ™‚
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This branch was another project E and I made together. He loves trees, so I took a branch that I pruned from our yard and we covered it with fabric scraps to hang up in his room.
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His cloud bunting is still up, with the addition of a (temporarily empty) frame above it.
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We are still cosleeping at night, but I am trying to encourage E to use his crib for naps. He was never a fan of the crib, but since my husband converted it to a toddler bed, he is much happier with it. E is an awful napper for the most part, but I was beyond excited a couple of times recently when after playing in his room, he climbed up into his bed on his own and took a nap. ๐Ÿ™‚
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E loves to pick out his shoes each day, so I have his box of shoes down low and accessible, along with plenty of books and a few toys.
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This vintage print was an amazing antique store find. ๐Ÿ™‚
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That’s it! I also moved the changing table out of this room, into the hallway near my office for a couple of reasons (first so that my clients could use it without having to go into the the personal area of our house; second since it was not very much fun to play on the floor next to a diaper bin!). Pretty much everything else is the same. I try to keep things organized and keep clutter to a minimum so the room does not turn into a huge disaster. Our bedrooms are so small, so keeping them organized is so important! We may do a decluttering round soon on some of those stuffed animals. :-/

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Letting Go of Worrying What Others Think About Us

Friends and loyal readers, I have a confession to make. I have failed my family in one crucial area ever since our son started walking. I have let what others say get the best of me, usually preventing us from enjoying mass on Sunday, and a few times when our son was having a particularly wild day, we did not even go for fear that we were going to annoy everyone else. As moms, we tend to be the spiritual backbone of our family. As my husband’s Godparent, I feel that responsibility even more so. Yet we temporarily got into a rut where we were just so overwhelmed and I felt like I was failing as a mom, wife, Godparent, and Catholic and Christian in general.

Our son is a very active, chatty, social little guy. He loves talking to strangers, and running up to see new people. He was very easy to keep contained in church before he started walking, and was usually on my chest in the baby carrier. However, once he started walking, he mostly lost interest in being in the baby carrier. He likes to explore, be free, and hates feeling constrained. Our normal parish does not have a crying room, which is nice since it encourages families with young children to sit with the rest of the parish. Unfortunately, not everyone enjoys having a toddler near them in church. After a few weeks with some unfortunately discouraging comments, I was too embarrassed to keep going, so we tried other parishes.

I wanted to go to a church with a crying room, so that I could relax a bit. We tried a church with a very full crying room, but after one week there, my husband and I both agreed that was not how we wanted to raise our son. We could see that the kids (even the older, school-aged kids) in there were just getting into a habit of not paying attention to the mass at all, and were just busy playing with toys and all of the other kids. We tried another church where the crying room was usually empty. That worked for a few weeks, but then our son started to catch onto the fact that we were separated from everyone else. He started beating on the glass walls like he was trying to escape from a cage. All of the normal recommendations that people give about keeping your kids occupied during church were not working for us. Normally, at home or at the library, our son is a little bookworm. He loves looking at books and “reading”, but for some reason had no interest in books at all when we were at church. He also loved his sensory box when we were at home, but would not even glance at it when we were in church. I tried making a few pages for a quiet book for him to use during church, but he had absolutely no interest in it during mass (even though he loved those pages when we were at home). I tried setting aside the special books and quiet book pages so he was only looking at them when we were at church and they would be fun and new to him, but that still did not work.

Then one day something occurred to me. Our son is very sensitive to my emotions. I have spent months being tense on Sundays, worrying that his chattering, whining and squirming was disturbing everyone. I have not allowed myself to relax for fear of bothering everyone around us. Then I read this blog post and this one, and the words of these wonderful, experienced Catholic moms assured me that what we were going through was not unusual. I let go of my anxiety that we were disturbing everyone around us. I started making an effort to stop caring what others say or think about us, both in life and in church. I worked on getting myself into a calm, peaceful place before we went to mass. Guess what happened. Our son’s behavior suddenly changed.

The past few weeks have been wonderful. Our son E has been peaceful during mass, has sat quietly with his quiet book, his sensory box, and his big children’s Bible. He has cuddled in my lap and listened to the priest speak. He has loved singing along with the music during mass since he was about five months old, but then a few weeks ago he said “Amen” after everyone else did, and he even reached out to shake my hand during the Sign of Peace. I realized then that maybe I was not doing such a bad job after all.

For some reason, his original sensory box disappeared. I spent days looking everywhere for it, and it was just gone. I figured it was time to upgrade to a toddler model anyway, so I made a new one. I have a little plastic statue of Jesus that someone gave me for my First Communion that E loves. He loves saying “Hi Gee!” when he sees it, so I made sure to include that in the new box. ๐Ÿ™‚ I also added some latches and other items that were not in the original box.

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I have gone a bit Pinterest crazy lately researching quiet book templates and planning our tot school homeschool room and curriculum (more on that coming soon). I found some great templates for quiet book pages, especially at this blog. I put together a Pinterest board with a lot of great resources that have inspired me with various pages. Some of the pages I designed on my own and cut out freehand, and others I followed a template, or modified a template to my own design. I plan to do a page for each letter of the alphabet, plus some other pages as well, so it is far from finished but it has plenty to keep our son occupied for now. I do not like cutting out letters, so I found some foam alphabet stickers that I hot glued on where I wanted to spell out words.

This first page is a modified version of the felt board that I made for our son’s room (updated room tour coming soon too). I purchased the felt stickers at Joann’s for the ladybugs, bees, and fish, and added Velcro to the back. The rest I cut out freehand. I also did the same for the page with the owls later in the book.

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How Huggies “Natural Care” Wipes Burned My Son’s Skin

I have very sensitive skin. I know many of our friends and family probably thought I was being a bit nuts when everything on our baby registry was organic and for sensitive skin, but I knew there was a good chance that our baby would end up with sensitive skin like mine. So far, we have been very lucky that he hasn’t had too many strong reactions to anything we have used on him. Normally, we always use Earth’s Best Organic Chlorine Free Wipes for diaper changes (found here), and we have never had any problems. Recently, my husband noticed that we were running low on wipes in the diaper bag and picked up something at the grocery store. Since they didn’t carry Earth’s Best at that grocery store, he figured Huggies “Natural Care” wipes would be an okay option (they claim to be natural after all).

After using them a couple of times, I suddenly noticed a horrible rash all over our son’s crotch and thighs, everywhere I had used the wipes during a diaper change. It was diaper rash to the extreme, except it extended far beyond the reach of the diaper (we had a couple of pretty messy diaper changes that involved lots of wiping). By the next day, the rash had become raw and scabby. Whatever chemicals were in the wipes had literally burnt off his skin. Yesterday was absolutely awful…I wanted to get a picture of how bad it was, but that was impossible with the way he was wriggling and screaming from the afternoon all the way until bed time.

I am a huge proponent of natural health care and remedies, and have been making my own herbal remedies for us and our pets for years now. I am going to start a new series of blog posts about my recent journey into expanding my herbal remedy arsenal for our family’s health care. I happened to have just received my new shipment of dลTERRA essential oils yesterday, so I immediately started adding a few of the oils into the lineup to treat E’s raw, irritated skin. Within 24 hours, he is doing so much better. His skin has started healing up a lot. There is still a little bit of scabby area left, but yesterday his entire inner thigh looked raw like the small raw bit in the photo below.

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This is the arsenal of supplies that I have been using on his skin:
California Baby Calendula Cream (this is what I usually use if he has any diaper rash), Burts Bees Res-Q Ointment (has comfrey as the main ingredient, which is great for soothing and healing all kinds of bumps, scrapes, bug bites, etc.), fresh aloe vera, dลTERRA Lavender essential oil (for soothing the skin),ย dลTERRA Melaluca essential oil (for its cleansing and antibiotic properties), andย dลTERRA Frankincense essential oil (for its healing properties).
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I have used lavender essential oil for many things over the years, but I started getting disgusted by the chemical processes most companies use to extract the essential oils. Most essential oils that you find in stores are actually extracted through chemical processes instead of steam or pressure extraction. Instead of getting a concentrated version of a plant with healing abilities, you end up with a concentrated amount of toxins. I discovered dลTERRA essential oils, and have become enthralled with the company the more I learn about them. They only use organic herbs and produce for their essential oils, and the oils are never extracted by chemical means. You know that you are getting the purest form of the plant essence available. I am really excited to start documenting our family’s journey with using dลTERRA essential oils, as well as some new fresh medicinal herbs that I recently added to my herb garden. Feel free to let me know if you have any questions!

Some of the issues we have been tackling lately with herbal remedies (and will be coming to the blog soon) include extreme teething (getting the first set of molars), bug bites and prevention, digestive problems with one of our dogs and one of our cats, my journey with finding natural remedies for my severe and chronic muscle, bone, ligament, and arthritis pain, and other issues as well. For more information on dลTERRA, click here.

*Update: After I published this post, a friend sent me this news article link. Sadly, this is quite a common reaction to wipes in general. Be sure to check the ingredients on the wipes you use or make your own! The Earth’s Best wipes that we use thankfully do not have the chemicals that the article mentioned, which is why our son never had this problem before.

Garden Reveal!

Our backyard remodel has been a major undertaking. Way bigger than we would have anticipated. It has taken so much longer than we had planned, and there are still a lot of last details left to finish. When I made over our front yard two years ago, everything went a lot faster since I didn’t have a child to take care of, and I didn’t have my mobility and pain problems. Those two new factors have made this project infinitely slower. I know a lot of people have been curious to see a reveal, so I wanted to post pictures of the progress so far. ๐Ÿ™‚

I hated the ugly retaining walls that go throughout our backyard, and I have been trying to convince my husband to let me paint them some bright colors ever since we moved in. Finally, I looked for some examples on Pinterest that were close enough to what I had in mind that helped me convince him that I should paint. E’s garden is so much more fun now that it is colorful. ๐Ÿ™‚ I have a really exciting project in mind for the planter above his garden…I can’t wait to get that installed too!

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I haven’t finished painting this area, but that will come soon enough. The table was an antique store find and actually came with four different chairs, but I wanted the set because I thought the chairs would be perfect around our firepit. The table was cute too, and got paired with four chairs that were a great thrift store find at $2 each!

The pink flowers in the top planter are one of the few that I did not plant (along with the roses that they are mixed in with). They were there from a previous owner, and are amazing. They are super low-maintenance, need almost no water, and reseed themselves each year. They are called a bunch of different names, but you can find them at Home Depot under the name Red Valerian. In the bottom row, I have our dwarf almond tree and kumquat tree, which I planted when we moved in. In between those, I planted more low water plants, lots of geraniums and Santa Barbara daisies.

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This is the pergola that my husband built at our old house! We actually had our small wedding reception under this pergola in our old backyard, so it is extra special. (We had two wedding days…the ceremony day that was moved up when we found out my grandma was dying and our originally planned date). The diagonal pieces needed to be replaced after the move, so my dad made these new ones for us! They still need to be painted but look great.

The pergola used to be our patio dining area at our old house, but now it is a play zone. ๐Ÿ™‚ Underneath the pergola is the artificial grass my husband installed (more info on that in a later post), and a nice play area for the little guy and his friends. Things are a little more put away than usual today since we are expecting rain, but this is where his bounce house/ball pit normally sits, and his trains are put away from the train table. We actually found the train table for free on Craigslist, but it needed some legs, which was an easy fix for my husband! It is one of E’s favorite things. ๐Ÿ™‚ I will post pictures of his bounce house/ball pit when I blog about his birthday party, but in the meantime, you can check it out here.
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This is the part of the garden where all the work really took place…I am going to post some wide angle overview pictures here and then go into more detail about all of the various projects and areas within the next few days!

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Our to-do list for this project still includes installing new raised beds for veggies, completing the irrigation system (I am hand watering for now…not too bad since most of the plants have low water requirements), installing the shade fabric system that will be drawn or retracted over the entire garden, lighting, sound system, waterfall, and adding more decomposed granite as walkway.

We originally were going to put in pavers, stepping stones, bricks or gravel, but then I realized that the decomposed granite that we put down as an underlayer is much easier for me to walk on! I like how it looks and it is super cheap (you can often even find it for free!), and we just need a bit more to thicken it up.

Lots more details coming in the next few days!