Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Cheerios Box DIY Portable Play Board {+ Free Printable}

This post is sponsored by Cheerios.

As part of our Back to School Basics series we are featuring activities that practice simple preschool concepts. Today's post focuses on quick fine motor activities that are fun for preschoolers, easy to set up, and help strengthen finger muscles.

I'm partnering with Cheerios this month and am excited to share a bit about the sustainability of Cheerios, from the oats all the way to alternative uses for the product itself, like the boxes, which we love to create with! Did you know that all the boxes are made from 100% recycled paperboard? In addition to recycling our Cheerios cereal boxes, we love to upcycle the large paperboard boxes and craft with them.

We are headed off on our last road trip of the summer next weekend, so I decided to make a few portable play boards for my kids using our Cheerios boxes. This way they'll have something fun to do while we are driving that is a little different from our last road trip a few weeks ago.

The Cheerios Box DIY Portable Play Boards were actually really quick to make and my kids had fun testing them out for me along the way to make sure they worked. This is a Mom Project but little helpers are welcome!

Materials Needed for the Portable Play Boards:

  • Cheerios box
  • Paper cutter/ scissors
  • Double-side tape
  • Glue gun
  • Colored Plastic tape (we got ours at Target, this was much easier to use/cut than duct tape)
  • Chalkboard Magnet Board (purchased at Michaels)
  • Black Felt
  • Ribbon
  • Scrapbook paper* (optional)

How to make the Portable Play Boards:

One thing I love about these Cheerios boxes I bought was that they were very plain and not covered with games for kids or tons of writing. My kids loved the heart bowl on one side and the word "smile" on the other side. 

To start off our craft we broke the boxes down and then cut the covers into 9x12 (approx) sized sheets.

For our first portable play board we decided to keep it really simple and we used the fronts of the boxes as decoration instead of covering them. 

Once they were cut down to size we taped a line of plastic colored tape down the center between the two boxes to create a spine. I taped each side down to bind the two pieces of cardboard together.

Next I took a 8.5x11 piece of felt and laid it down on top of one cardboard side. Then I used the hot glue gun to secure it in place and then I added a tape boarder around the felt (and on top of the edge of it) to hold it in place.

After I taped down the first side I got out the chalkboard magnet board, hot glued it in place, and then also added a yellow border around it to hold it in place.

Next I took a piece of sturdy ribbon and secured it to each side of the box using tape. The ribbon created a handle on each side so that kids could carry the play board around with them or hang it up easily.

One cool thing about the play board is that you can flip it to close back to back so that you can either have a chalkboard magnet board showing or turn it around and have a felt board showing.

My kids immediately grabbed their magnets to start playing on the board!

Since my preschooler doesn't nap any more, I've started using our portable play board for travel and also for during her daily quiet time. Usually she'll play in her room for about forty minutes and then will come out wanting something to do. Since I am usually busy doing projects, I have her play with this portable play board! She loves it! Below you'll find three simple play board activities we've enjoyed.

Portable Play Board Activities

Here are three simple activities using play boards that were fun for preschoolers...

1. One of our favorite activities using the play board was to build felt ice cream cones. Click here for the full tutorial.

Manipulating the felt and moving it around was great for my preschooler's fine motor skills and gave her an opportunity to explore colors a bit too. She enjoyed telling me which color was which and where it went while I was trying to work.

2. We also loved exploring with chalk and paint brushes!

My daughter is really interested in her name and related activities, so I wrote it with chalk and then she used a paintbrush and water to trace the letters in her name and make the name disappear. 

We also just created pictures and other drawings and she magically erased them with water and her paintbrush. 

3. For our third activity we played with felt people on our felt board.

Have you ever made felt people? My friend Sarah made us an adorable set a few years ago and we have been loving it! The set was personalized for my son, so now I am excited to create one for my daughter. She loved playing with his set too. 

* I am including a free felt people printable with this post if you want to make your own felt people (and clothes)! Click here to download it. Just use these templates to cut out your own felt people & clothes. Mine are super simple but I am sure many of you could jazz these up a bit to make them even cuter!

Some of our other favorite felt activities include...

DIY Decorated Play Board

In addition to making one play board super simple with the Cheerios box picture on the front for my son, my daughter also helped me add some color to one play board for her. We used some favorite scrapbook paper and more plastic tape to cover the play board.

My daughter was ecstatic that she had an entire play board just for herself and she spent a lot of time using it! As I make more felt stories we'll have to add them to our collection to play with during quiet time! It is so cool that we were able to make something so useful and fun from a box of Cheerios!

Wish us luck on our road trip this week! I think our Cheerios box creation will be a big help!

* Please Note: If you have super destructive kids then you may want to use a thicker ribbon or even fabric to make your handles thicker than mine. My kids were so excited to play with materials on the board that they weren't trying to destroy it.

Have you made anything from a Cheerios box? Share about it in the comments!

Did you know that not only are the Cheerios boxes sustainable, but the oats are sustainable too? Oats are among the most sustainable crops and usually require less fertilizer and pesticides than other major crops. They also typically rely entirely on rainfall – instead of irrigation – for water. This makes Cheerios good for us and also good for the planet! So awesome!

You can read more about Cheerios Oats here and how they are used to help the earth!

Check out for more info about the Power of Oats AND see all of the other cool creations people are making with their cereal boxes! I especially love this Cheerios guitar from Made by Joel.

If you want to check out our other Back to School Basics post, heading on over to our Back to School Basics landing page.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Cheerios and General Mills. All opinions are mine. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Preschool Paper Plate Alphabet Game {Back to School Basics & Reading Eggs}

This post is sponsored by Reading Eggs, an online reading program for kids.

As part of our Back to School Basics series we are featuring activities that practice preschool concepts like colors, shapes, alphabet letters, numbers, and name recognition. As part of our series we are excited to partner with Reading Eggs to offer all of our readers a free four week trial. You can read more about Reading Eggs and what I think about them in my recent review post.

Today we are focusing on letter recognition using a simple and fun paper plate alphabet game!

To play this alphabet game all you need are...

  • markers (we used do-a-dot markers)
  • paper plates
  • a hole puncher
  • ribbon
  • scissors
  • tape
  • soft ball (we used a popple)


To get started you need to prep your paper plates and write several alphabet letters on them using a marker. Then you need to hole punch the tops of the plates so that there are two holes on the top of each plate.

Next you want to string your ribbon through the tops of the plates to make a big banner!! Hang your banner across a doorway or big open spot (using tape) and then you are ready to play our alphabet game!

When we learn about alphabet letters at our house we always focus on the letters in our name first... because they are usually the most meaningful letters.

Next we grabbed a soft ball and got ready to start playing!

The goal of the game is to call out an alphabet letter on the banner and then try to hit it with the soft ball. Sometimes we'd just throw and throw and call out which ones we ended up hitting instead. This game is addictive!

My kindergartener (almost first grader) and preschooler (almost 4) had a lot of fun with this game. In fact, after watching my daughter play for a little bit my older son was begging to play too. It is amazing how much fun throwing toys at new things can be!

As the kids got better at hitting the letters I moved the banner up higher and higher to make it a little bit more difficult. My son loved standing really far back and my daughter loved sneaking up as far as she possibly could to the banner.

This activity worked on hand-eye coordination, gross motor skills (throwing), and letter recognition. It would be easy to adapt as you teach other concepts such as math or more complex reading.  

Once you are done playing again and again this simple banner could easily be used in a child's bedroom as an inexpensive decoration. You could also jazz it up a bit with decorative accents (stickers, paints, etc.) to make it look even better. I love having my child's name hung in their room beceause I think it is a great way to introduce them to alphabet letters in a meaningful way that is important to them. 

We love to be creative and engage in active learning games where we are moving and learning. Sometimes we like to sit down and challenge our brains in different ways too, like on the computer (or tablet), which is why I've been enjoying doing the Reading Eggs program with my preschooler. You can read more about this great online reading program here

If you missed it earlier, all Toddler Approved readers are invited to sign up for a Reading Eggs FREE four week trial. Just click here to sign up.

Don't forget to TELL YOUR FRIENDS so their children can also try Reading Eggs for free! Please note this offer is valid NOW through 8/31/14.

I would love to hear about other ways that you've used paper plates for learning? Pass along your ideas please!

If you want to check out more from our Back to School Basics series, go here. This post will be updated daily with the new activities we are sharing!

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Reading Eggs, an online reading program for kids. All opnions are mine. Although I am compensated for my time and effort to share posts, payment does not guarantee a positive review. I only recommend products and services that I would personally purchase for our family. 
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