Category Archives: Toddler (2-3 years)

Chalk Roads

While writing the last post on sidewalk chalk math, I realized that I never posted about our outdoor chalk roads (or at least I can’t find the post!). This was something J did practically every day just after his little brother was born.  It allowed for outdoor play, kept him centralized to one place, and kept him well occupied with his love for all things cars!

Overtime his road system became more and more elaborate, adding specific stores, airports, parks, and parking lots to the roads just made it all more fun.  He is also becoming more capable of drawing his own roads.

If it’s too hot outside, check out our indoor version of the activity, Homemade Highways!

 

Pouring Practice

Simple pouring practice kept my J occupied for 2 hours.  He was soaking wet by the end of the two hours but had so much fun (apparently he needs a little more practice before I hand over the milk).

We did this activity inside (it was BRUTALLY hot outside).  TIP: I bought a waterproof tablecover to lay down for activities like this. It’s more sturdy than a tarp, so it stays in one place easily.  And it does a great job in trapping the water so it doesn’t hit my new wood floors! We also use the tablecover when finger paiting inside and under the pool for our indoor snowbox. It’s more expensive than a towel or simple tarp but worth the expense in my opinion.  And we can always use it as it’s intended too! :)

I gave him two trays (found at Target) a bowl of water and some different containers.  I asked him to pretend each container was a cup that needed to be filled with the water before setting the table for dinner.  I would’ve used real cups, but every single cup in my house was in the dishwasher.  Btw, how do 3 people go through every cup in the house in such a short time???  Toy tea sets would work perfectly for this.

My goal was for him to learn when to stop pouring to keep the “cups” from overflowing.  He tends to pour until the water hits the very tip of the cup which of course makes spilling guaranteed.  I used this to teach him when to stop pouring.

Was this a successful lesson, well yes and no.  Yes, he learned how to do it “right” but he didn’t necessarily enjoy doing it right.  He would much rather pour until it spills!

After the pouring practice, he just played and played and played.  I was so surprised he stayed focus for so long.  I just added some new utencils or containers every half hour.

Waterplay utencils that J finds entertaining:

  • medicine droppers and dispensers
  • measuring cups and spoons
  • bottles
  • milk carton with holes poked in the bottom (to create rain showers)
  • nasal aspirator
  • tubes
  • funnels
  • baster
  • squirt bottle
  • serving tray
  • muffin pan
  • ice cube tray
  • flask
  • tea kettle
  • bowls
  • buckets
  • paint brush
  • water wheel
  • sponge

What utencils does your little one like to play with in the water?

Homemade Sunbleached Puzzles

I came across this brilliant idea for sunbleached puzzles.  They were so easy to create and great entertainment (and practice) for a puzzle-lover. It was also a great little lesson in the sun’s effects.

I set out foam bath letters and numbers on dark construction paper and left them to sunbathe awhile on the deck.  J enjoyed watching the process, impressed by the magical results! We then brought it all inside to start putting it all together.  You can make this activity more difficult by adding extra foam letters to the choices.

This is great practice at letter recognition.  It’s also great way to help them learn how to spell their name, memorize their phone number or address. 

The link above used magnetic letters and shape blocks to create their puzzles.  You could also cut your own shapes out of colorful foam.

Button Snakes

Back when I was pregnant, I put together a basket of go-to activities that I could quickly pull from to keep J focused when I was busy with his little brother.  When I saw the button snake here, I knew I wanted to include it.

It was so easy to make, taking maybe 5 minutes, even with my sad skills using a needle and thread.

You need: colorful felt, scissors, ribbon, a button, needle and thread

What you do: 

  1. Cut the felt into squares (or fun shapes)
  2. Cut a small slit into each square (to fit your button)
  3. Sew one felt square near the end of your ribbon
  4. Sew a button onto the other end of your ribbon
  5. Your done!

    This was great practice for J.  He had really never tried button until this.  I made a beginner level button snake (using an extra large button) but was surprised at how quickly he caught on.

I recently made another button snake with a smaller button to increase the difficulty.  This time I cut the felt pieces into different shapes so that the pieces could also be used to sort or create various patterns as he builds the snake.

We’ve also used this activity in our airplane travel and it works great, lightweight and keeps him occupied.

Beads and Dot Markers

This week is all about finding multiple uses out of these beads from Melissa and Doug. 

Here’s our last activity using Melissa and Doug’s Lacing Beads.  This is a quick one, but one that kept J entertained for awhile.  Basically I just reused yesterday’s activity, but used dot markers instead.  I set out a few of the multi-colored lacing beads for him to create with the dot markers.

J loves dot markers.  They are a hit everytime I get them out. 

 

J started just playing around on the yellow, orange and red square and decided to cover the entire thing with red dots :)

Counting Beads

I’m always trying to think of different uses of the same old toys.  This set of lacing beads from Melissa and Doug has found many uses, all of which have been winners for J.  This week I’ll highlight some of the ways we’ve used these beads. 

J set the number beads in the correct order and then created a “graph” of sorts by lining up the corresponding number of cars beside each bead.  In hindsight, I should have set out cars that were all similar lengths.  There was no planning involved in this activity though.  I just needed something to hold his attention long enough for me to feed his brother.  It worked :)

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!

Geography Game(s) for Toddlers and Preschoolers

To celebrate July 4th, why not pull out (or purchase) a US map puzzle!

J adores maps.  I think his fascination began because of his love for puzzles.  His grandma bought him a USA board puzzle back when he was one year old that required a little more skill than all the other pegboard puzzles and I guess he liked that challenge.  We have since bought quite a few map activities and puzzles as he remains fascinated.  My thought is run with what they enjoy!  Most of what he’s learned, he’s initiated on his own.  I don’t consider knowledge of all 50 states or all 7 continents essential for a 2 year old but since he’s continually asking questions, we answer and encourage that interest.   

I do find that maps offer great practice with shape recognition, spacial recognition, directional and locational instructions (north/south, above/below), and even speech as he practices saying each name (many of which are not easy for adults to pronounce, let alone a toddler).  These are all great benefits!   

So onto our geography games

1. Bean bag drop – This came about on the fly after he completed one of his puzzles.  I pulled out some bean bags (ours are each a different color) and started calling out a color bean bag for him to use and then a state to distinguish.  He would then try to drop the bean bag on top of that state while standing straight above it.  This was my attempt to encourage some practice with motor skills and hand-eye coordination while taking advantage of his interest in maps.  We first tried tossing it to the appropriate state, but he is far from able to accomplish that.  We then reversed rolls and he called out a color beanbag and a state for me to hit.  

2. Flying across the US - We’ve also played a similar game using our map puzzles and a free helicopter we got from a fast food kid’s meal.  If you pull the tail of the helicopter the propeller flies off and lands, spinning like a top.  So we used that, again practicing motor skills (to work the toy) and he had to name the state that the spinning propellers landed on. 

3. Photos across the USA/World - J has family all across the country (and world), so this game is something he can relate very well too.  We use photos of family members for him to place in the correct state or country.  I often pull this out when we’re about to travel so that he can get a good idea of where we’re going.  He flies his toy plane from one place to the other, mimicking what we will do in the air (or car if we’re driving).  We also use favorite characters/toys to help him relate to the state (ex: Mickey Mouse lives in Florida, cars are made in Michigan… a generalization of course, but something a 2 year old can relate to).

4. Twister Geography – You would need a large map for this activity (we use the foam floor maps).  He has to touch a certain location with a designated body part.  “Right hand on Georgia!” or “Left wrist on the Pacific Ocean!”  So far J can only handle one set of instructions at a time.  With preschoolers you could give multiple instructions similar to the game Twister.

I’m actually really excited about his love for geography (since I love it too!).  As a jr. high teacher we did a ton of geography games and activities that I’m currently trying to figure out how to adapt for a toddler.

So what is your little one interested in?  Maybe it’s not geography but cars or animals. How can you use that interest to capitalize on other skill practice (perhaps even more needed skill practice)?

Age attempted: 34 months

Here are some of the map products we have that have served their purpose well:

Battat Wooden USA Puzzle: My mom got J a set of puzzles that included this.  This was his first map puzzle.  There are no pegs in the US puzzle.  He played with the others in the set much earlier since they had pegs and were far more simple.  The states are mostly grouped together by region to create larger pieces (only Texas and California stand alone).  This isn’t a great puzzle for state recognition but it was a great transition puzzle from the simple wooden peg puzzles to the traditional cardboard puzzles. 

Imaginetics Magnetic USA Map - they simply lay each piece on top of the corresponding spot in the magnetic book.  This was J’s 2nd geography “puzzle” and worked well. Since you don’t have to complete the entire map, this was a good step up from the board puzzle.  We also used the magnetic sheet that each state came in as a shadow activity for shape recognition (just play on a cookie sheet).  Many of the pieces are small and a few with tiny parts have broken (Michigan and Maryland).  It is still worth the cost for us.

Melissa and Doug USA Puzzle - this is a cardboard puzzle we got J for Christmas; I should note that each state is cut according to its shape and does not have the traditional puzzle cutouts.  The border (oceans) fit together like a normal puzzle, but the states do not.  I love this feature.  J has had to learn how to deal with this so that the states aren’t moving around as he builds.  IMO this has helped him learn even more skills than a normal puzzle would offer, but it can be frustrating before they figure it out the best process.

Wonder Foam Giant USA Map -  J’s grandparents bought him this for Christmas (so yes, now he has two USA floor puzzles… and he loves them both!).  This is a very large puzzle.  Each state fits together like a traditional puzzle.  I like that they attempt to teach the general location of Alaska and Hawaii in relation to the continental US whereas most puzzles just place them in a corner. 

World Map Foam PuzzleWorld Map Foam Puzzle – This is a REALLY large puzzle with very thick pieces so it is very sturdy.   This map is pretty busy and a newer concept for J by introducing all the countires.   This is definitely one we work on together, though it’s amazing how fast you see improvment with practice!

Globe – When school supplies were really cheap at Target, I bought him a globe that he loves.  Since we have family both across the country and around the world, he has been encouraged to locate where they live on the globe.  I think a globe is a great resource/toy for kids since it really helps put geography into perspective.  Through playing with it and asking questions about it, he has learned the names of each continent (though he can’t locate them all).

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.

A Simple Dot Marker Activity

Yes, I am rather cheap and I tend to save everything.  I’m always contemplating what activity we could do with would-be trash. 

As J finishes sticker sheets, I often peel the remaining border and stick it on a sheet of paper.  It’s saved for some random rainy day… or days spent inside with a colicky (but adorable) baby. 

I gave J some dot markers and a border sheet of what had been a set of smiley face stickers.  Each empty circle was bordered with a different color.  I simply asked J to use the dot markers to fill in each circle with the corresponding color.  Simple, yet effective in entertaining while I fed his little brother.