Category Archives: Early Toddler (18-24 months)

Sidewalk Paint

You may have seen this post I wrote last year about entertaining a toddler with just a paintbrush and bowl of water. 

Well, this is still a winning activity with J at 3 years old.  The neighbors (age 4 and 5) have even joined in on the fun. 

So far it’s been a success at 1, 2 and 3 years old!

Homemade Flag of Toys

We’ve been so busy, I needed some quick, no-prep needed activities for Independence Day.  This is one that I came up with…

I sent J through the house on a toy hunt.  He had to find

as many red and blue toys as possible.  Actually I tried adding white too, but we just didn’t have enough white toys. He LOVED this mission.  I was shocked at how long he stuck to it and how many toys he came up with.

Please ignore the child safety sticker on the lid. Like I said, last minute improvising!

The next step was to create our US Flag.  I was going to have him create it on the kitchen floor.  But since we didn’t have enough white toys, I improvised and pulled out a white storage lid instead.

I set out a picture of the US Flag and told him we were going to use the toys to create our own flag.  The only part he needed me for was help with making the blue shaped like a square.

He was so proud of the final result and insisted we keep it out for dad to see.

Homemade Water Table

This is something I wrote on our family blog from last summer.  It’s a great alternative to spending money on a store-bought water table.  J’s is still just as entertained this year at 3 years old as last!
 
We’re still playing with water almost every time we head outside.  I noticed that they sell water tables at all the stores but thought it was a little ridiculous to spend good money on a glorified bucket!  So we made our own water table with what we had. All it required was pulling out a flat storage box (luckily it was just lying there empty under my bed) and J’s wagon.  It’s a perfect fit!  He loves it.  And when there’s no shade, I just wheel the wagon into the garage.
I found that sand/water wheel last summer on clearance for $2.  He played with it in the tub until this summer’s homemade water table. 
Here he is trying to pour water into a dropper.  Smart boy! Pouring is easier than manipulating the dropper to fill it up.  Too bad the experiment wasn’t so successful.
He loves blowing bubbles
Pouring is much easier with a funnel!
I made some blue ice cubes that he liked scooping into the tub, stirring them, letting them melt in his hand, watching the water turn blue, and then refilling the tray to make more ice.
 

Animal Silhouettes

I found a set of foam bath shapes at Toys R Us (in the cheap-o section at the front).  There are 4 different animals, each in 4 different colors.

Prep Work:  I chose a group of shapes to trace onto cardstock and then colored each shape. 

During the activity:  I give J a set of shapes along with the silhouette page and ask him to match the correct shape on top of each silhouette. 

This is an activity that J first did around 26 months.  It’s a step up from regular matching because he must match both color and shape, and then he must figure out how to match the shape on top (which might mean turning the duck over so it is facing the correct way).  When he first started I gave him only the shapes that could be found on the silhouette sheet.  As he got better, I slowly added more shapes for him to search through.  So he might have to bypass the orange and blue duck in search of the green duck. 

Now at 3 years old, he is still challenged by the activity.  To add to its difficulty, I added another page of silhouettes for him to match and I give him the entire bucket of foam shapes to search through (there are many extras that will not have a match, making the search harder). 

Here is another silhouette activity J enjoys.

Flower Mobile (or possibly placemat)

J made a flower mobile for his grandma as a get well soon gift.  It would be a great gift for any girl on any occasion really. I think it turned out really cute and J had a lot of fun creating it.  He stuck with it until it was all finished!

What you need:  Construction paper, contact paper, scissors, flower magazine, marker; you will also need a  hangar, a hole punch, and string if you want to create the mobile

Prep Work:  I cut out the borders for each flower, using different colored construction paper.  I also cut out two equal sizes of clear contact paper, taping one to the work-table (sticky side up).  The other piece of contact paper is saved to place on top after the flowers are completed.

During the activity:  J placed the flower-borders onto the contact paper though he needed some help with the larger pieces since they can get tangled easily.  He then searched through a flower magazine to find flowers to fill each border, matching the colors accordingly.  I just had him tear the pictures out of the magazine rather than using scissors.  We then worked together to tear the pictures into small pieces that he could stick inside the corresponding colored flower.  After all of the flowers were filled, we added a message for grandma and J signed one of the flowers himself.  I then placed the second sheet of contact paper on top.  If we were creating a placemat, the activity would basically be done. Just trim the edges of the contact paper to make a more finished look.  (My intention was to create a placemat, but I did not plan well.  The flowers were so huge that the placemat covered half the table! So I improvised and decided this was going to become a mobile instead.)

For the mobile:  I cut apart each flower and punched a hole into the top and bottom.  I also cut small pieces of string to attach the flowers together.  J helped thread the string through the holes and I tied the knots.  We then tied it onto a hangar. 

Age attempted: 3 years

Nesting Dolls

Last Christmas when I brought out our decorations, I found a set of Russian nesting dolls (don’t ask me why they were mixed in our Christmas decor).  J loved them (age 20 months).  That same year his grandma got him a cute set of nesting animals in his stocking that he’s played with all that year. 

To me, nesting dolls are a step up from the nesting cups all pretoddlers love to play with.  Nesting dolls are a little more advanced since they have to open and close each one.  They provide great practice with size recognition, help you work on size comparison like smallest/largest, smaller/larger, large, medium, small,… 

At 33 months they are still within his developmental level and keep his attention well.  Maybe this is a “toy” you have around your home and have overlooked it just like I did.

Sticker Igloo

This igloo craft was a lot of fun to make and I think it turned out really cute too!

 

What you need:  blank label stickers (I actually used mailing labels and cut them down to size), construction paper, scissors, glue, black marker

What you do:  Have your little one build a wall on the construction paper, using the labels.  Once they’re finished, turn the paper over and draw a semi-circle on the back.  Either have them cut out along the line, or you do the cutting for them.  To create the door, cut out a second semi-circle and have them color a black door, then glue on top of the larger piece.  After gluing his igloo together, he added some snow to his picture. 

This was honestly supposed to go with a winter unit I was going to do with J… but 3rd trimester exhaustion has set in so the unit didn’t happen.  I ended up cutting out the upper and lower case letter I, letting him fill those in with “ice blocks” and decided reinforcement learning was enough this day!  J was quite proud of his final work of art. 

This idea is from the Frugal Family Fun Blog.

Great Benefits to Nursery Rhymes

Don’t underestimate the age-old success of nursery rhymes!  I think sometimes we get caught up in the new and improved that we forget the great benefits to the tried and true.

Nursery rhymes are definitely tried and true. 

They are great for infants through to preschoolers (and probably beyound).  The beauty with nursery rhymes, is it doesn’t take much effort to entertain our little ones with these.  Very little prep work involved AND great benefits.  The sing-song effect is very calming. They offer a great variety of vocabulary (and our little ones are learning from what we say whether we realize it or not!). Hearing the rhyming words over and over teaches detailed awareness of the language. They learn to listen for the sounds that make up a word (phonemes) which helps them learn how to work with the language.  And they are doing all of this without worksheets or lessons.  They are learning and we don’t even realize it.

Ways to include nursery rhymes in your day:

  • Read compilation books with the best of the best nursery rhymes written.  
  • Recite them outloud while driving in the car, going on a walk or changing their diaper (they are great distractions for even the tiniest babies).
  • Use hand motions and act them out.   
  • Sing them.  
  • Use them to encourage your toddler during clean up. 
  • Find rhymes that coincide with topics of interest or unit studies (ex: Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush would work well when teaching basic hygiene; The Itsy Bitsy Spider works with lessons on bugs)
  • Add a nursery rhyme to your letter, color, or number of the day lessons (Little Boy Blue for blue day; Jack and Jill for J-day) 
  • March to the beat of a nursery rhyme (a great way to practice rhythm!)Do all of the above and do it consistently.  Consistency is the goal. 

But isn’t it funny how sometimes the easiest things are the things we forget about?  At least that’s me.   I’m counting this post as a reminder for myself :)

So here are a few popular rhymes in our house to get us started:

  • Humpty Dumpty
  • Row Row Row Your Boat
  • Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
  • Jack and Jill went up the hill
  • This is the way we wash our hands
  • Old McDonald
  • Ring Around the Rosie
  • It’s Raining, It’s Pouring
  • Rain, Rain Go Away

Ok, this list is looking pretty typical, huh? I’m no nursery rhyme expert. I’m not even sure everything on the list counts as a nursery rhyme. I just use what I know.  Sometimes I even forget the words and make something up that rhymes!  My poor child will never know the real words for Lullaby and Goodnight but oh well.

Here’s some popular websites where you can print out both words and pictures for nusery rhymes, or even hear them with animation. 

There are tons of books that compile nursery rhymes. J got A Treasury for One Year Olds as a gift that we still use now.  The series offers a new book for each year, though we haven’t gotten any of the others. The older books apparently also include popular stories too. Of course there are cds you can buy that include nursery rhymes.  We don’t personally own any, but my mom plays some for the grandkids and they love them.  You could also record your own (see this post on recording stories on cd yourself).

This is something you can try right now!

Sally’s Cozy Cone Motel

I bought a set of orange cones last Spring in Target for $1 or $2.50 (by the way, I saw the same set in the store this morning).  We’ve used them both outside and inside for obstacle courses or even as an easy way to tell J how far he’s allowed to go down the sidewalk. 

This winter, I cut doors into each cone and created Sally’s Cozy Cone Motel (from the Disney movie, Cars).  How easy is that!  J loves the movie and knew exactly what they were.  He’ll often want to put his cars to sleep at night in their Cozy Cone.  A simple change to an old toy to bring it to life again and add to a toddler’s pretend play!  We can even still use the cones for their normal uses. 

I think this would be a fun addition to a homemade highway.  We might just have to break out the painter’s tape again!

Struggling with Water in their Face

When I was posting on the Mini Car Wash, I came across a photo that reminded me of something other mom’s might find useful during bathtime..

J has gone through phases where he HATED water in his face.  I have always just dumped and moved on, sometimes he was ok with that sometimes he was NOT.  I did try to teach him to hold his head up, but fear always made him tilt it right back down. 

And then we happened upon this little “game” during bathtime. I got him to try to catch the water dripping from his head in a cup.  Getting him focused on this was just what he needed to forget about the water in his face.  It works so well for him.  In fact if you look closely at the photo, you can see water droplets falling from his eyelashes too, but he could care less since he’s focused elsewhere.

As he got better with catching the water, we moved to containers with smaller openings to increase the difficulty.  He likes to try and fill up a bottle, douse the toy fish inside a bowl, drip water onto those little growing sponges, or even get the stream to flow in between his fingers. 

We don’t play this game every bathtime anymore since he will now hold his head up.  But every now and then he wants to play it again. 

I imagine this game would work unless your little one has very short hair since the water needs to drip off the longer hair to form streams. 

Age attempted: 2 years