Category Archives: Concepts

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?

Archeological Dig for Toddlers

Well, I don’t know if “archeological” would be correct since we were digging for puff balls!! But J found them very intriguing :)

I filled a plastic tray with rice and hid pom pom balls inside.  I also set out a few scoopers and an empty tray next to it.  At the last minute I added a cookie drying rack on top of the empty tray.  It’s holes were big enough to let the rice fall through but small enough to keep the pom pom balls from falling.  I showed J how to scoop up the rice and then empty it on top of the drying rack to find the pom pom balls.  He then separated the pom pom balls by color into small bowls. 

He loved this activity. 

Age attempted: 23 months (could be done earlier; for really young toddlers you could leave out the scoopers and just let them dig with their hands)

Lesson Learned:  I set out a beach towel underneath, but I should’ve used the plastic table protector instead.  It is heavier and doesn’t move around as much.  I could’ve used the empty baby pool too. 

Letter of the Day Activities (I day!)

We focused on “I for Ice” today and included some science in our lessons!

Ice Painting: This was how I introduced the letter I to him.  It was a hit. I gave J a piece of paper with both the upper and lower case letter I and we talked about the letter, it’s sound, and then let the LeapFrog fridge phonics toy repeat the letter and sound. We also filled in the block letters with stickers.

 Since “ice” was our I-word for the day, I gave him some homemade popsicles (made from Kool-aid) and showed him how he could paint with them.  I got this idea from the Toddler Busy Book.  Surprisingly, he was so interested in painting that he did not consider eating the popsicles until the very end.  (During this activity, he pointed out that the paper was wet, so I started our science lesson by telling him as the ice gets warm it melts and becomes water)   **You could also use plain ice and construction paper to paint similar to this.

Ice Melting Bags:  This was our science activity that went well with I for Ice day.  I had already made several different colored ice cubes the night before using food coloring.  I had J separate the different colors into sandwich bags and we taped them to the dishwasher so they would be at his eye level.  We described the ice together (cold, hard, heart-shaped in our case).  I opened the freezer door and had him feel inside.  He noticed that it was cold in the freezer.  I told him that ice needed to be kept cold or it would melt, so we kept it in the freezer.  I asked him if he remembered what happens to ice when it gets warm and he did!!  He replied “water!”  By this point our ice bags had already begun to melt, so I had him look for water in the bags.   He was excited to find some in a couple of the bags!  Throughout the afternoon, we kept an eye on our ice bags.  I pointed out that the ice was getting smaller and the water in the bag was increasing.  We talked about the different properties of ice and water.  By dinnertime, he was excited to show daddy his bags (of now colored water) and to tell him that the ice had become water because they got warm.  I got the general idea from  http://www.preschoolrainbow.org/toddler-theme.htm

You could easily turn this into a color mixing activity or get more specific by placing more ice in one bag and noticing how it melts slower this way, discuss why,… 

Ice Blocks - This was a simple activity with really no prep and no clean up.  I gave J a bowl of ice cubes and he built with them…. kind of.  At first we made letters and shapes with them (of course we made the letter I) but as they melted a bit, we could start stacking them to create walls/towers. 

Other things we did:

  • I pulled out all of J’s letter books and had him search for the letter I page.  He then wanted to show his stuffed Pooh all of the letter I’s.
  • I had printed an extra Letter I page (they were big block letters) and I had him fill in the letters with blocks, pompoms, stickers, and paperclips.\
  • It’s raining AGAIN, so I used painter’s tape to write both the upper and lower case letter I on our kitchen floor.  (I reused last weeks triangle tape because painter’s tape can get expensive!!)  Our letter I will stay up all week.
  • He got a popsicle as a special snack (probably his favorite “activity” of the day.  He was VERY engaged while eating his popsicle!

Age attempted: 23 months

Learning Shapes: Triangles

Floor Shapes:  We taped triangles up and down our kitchen floor.  I got the first few started and then J helped me by decided if the triangle should be big or little and making sure I completed the triangle’s three sides.  I repeated again and again that triangles have three sides and we counted as I placed each side down.   This is my winter/rainy day version of sidewalk chalk.  If you read my sidewalk chalk post, you’ll know that I like to have something out as a consistent reminder of our weekly lessons.  Painter’s tape works well when we can’t get outside!

When the triangles were all completed, we traced them with our fingers, we walked and “jumped” across the triangle path, we drove cars around the sides of the triangles and we filled each triangle with one of his Matchbox cars (a good reminder for the number one).

Triangle Building Shapes – This is a simple activity and so easy to prepare.  All I had to do was cut out a handful of foam triangles in different sizes and colors.  I showed J how to lay the triangles next to each other to create pictures and designs (basically build with triangles instead of blocks).  He mostly wanted to match the triangles (same size and color) which was perfectly fine with me.  The point was to give him lots of visual reminders of a triangle and that was accomplished.  You could do this activity with felt or even construction paper (and glue the shapes onto paper).  I saw something similar in a learning store, but the shapes were magnetic.  I loved that idea, but I was too cheap to buy them and didn’t have time to make them!

Stickers in Triangles – I gave J a piece of paper filled with triangles and had him place one sticker inside each triangle. 

Age Attempted: 23 months (have done similar activities much younger… 18 months??)

Teachable Moments:  inside/outside (with stickers and cars inside triangle); focus on triangles having 3 sides and 3 corners/points; what shapes can we create by placing triangles together?? (foam pieces)

Try Again? I resuse these activities often

Homemade Toy: Pipe Cleaners in a Bottle

This activity is a huge winner.   I once read about giving toddlers spaghetti pasta to fit inside empty spice containers in the “Toddler Busy Book”.  I tried this first (with an empty water bottle since he was too young to fit the spaghetti in the tiny spice holes) but the spaghetti kept breaking and then I was worried he’d try to eat the pieces.  It just didn’t work with J so young.  So I changed the activity and gave him pipe cleaners with the empty bottle instead.  I twisted the pipe cleaners in half so they were more sturdy and bent the ends around so they were safe.  J loved loved loved this.  It is definitely in the top 10 toys he owns.  I now include it when making a  Busy Box for 1 year olds.
It’s a great activity to help little ones practice motor skills.  The length of the pipe cleaners makes it more difficult to fit inside the bottle than a puff ball or anything small enough to fit into their hands.  J often tried to hold the bottle in one hand and the pipe cleaner in his other hand so it required steady hands (something he did not have at first!)  As he’s gotten older and in better control of his muscles I’ve decreased the size of the mouth on the bottle.  He now uses an empty parmesan container with the holes in the lid or a plastic lid that I punched holes into.  I’ve also seen an activity online that colored around each hole to encourage their toddler to match the colors during the activity (though I can’t remember where!).  I liked that idea, but haven’t used it yet.  It would definitely increase the difficulty. 
It’s funny how we don’t realize all the skills we had to master in order to do things like pouring, sorting, threading, etc. It’s fun watching J learn these things.  This is one of J’s favorite activities between ages 11 months and maybe 18 months.  
      
It’s a perfect plane activity since it keeps him occupied for so long and is so light to carry while traveling.  In fact, he just enjoyed this toy on our plane ride this morning at 22 months.  Again it’s light, keeps them busy for an extended time and the pipe cleaners can be used for other things (make jewelry, letters, shapes, chains, threading,…).
Age attempted: I can’t remember exactly when I first introduced this; I know my neice is able to do it at 12 months right now.
Teachable Moments:  In and Out, show them how to hold the bottle still while moving the pipe cleaner, fine motor skills, color matching,
Try Again?  He is still intrigued at 23 months!  I made the activity more difficult as he got older.
 
Here’s the cuter version I made for my neice.  I just punched holes into the top of an Empty Puffs container.

Snow Cream

Winter continues.  I think all parents get a little tired of being stuck inside right around this time of year.   The good thing is I’m getting to try out lots of activities with J.  With the unusual winter we’re having, many of those activities involve snow.  I brought out the snowbox again today and J played for a full hour.  

This afternoon we tried snowcream for the first time.  Yes I had never tasted it either, being a true southerner.   Honestly, I had never heard about it until this year!!  So I googled it to find a recipe and J and I mixed up a batch together.  J helps me cook or bake each Friday; this was by far the easiest thing we’ve made together.  He helped me pour the sugar, vanilla, and milk into the snow.  Using specific directions like “fill the cup with sugar” or “empty the cup” is always good reinforcement.  Of course he also helped stir until it looked just right!   He loved it…. eating it that is.  I mean really loved it.  I think he would’ve eaten the entire half gallon had I not stopped him. 

Here’s the recipe:

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 gallon snow
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups milk

You'll need these ingredients.... plus snow!

DIRECTIONS:  Collect snow as it falls inside a bowl.  Add sugar and vanilla to taste and then add milk until you see the right consistency.

The recipe is from allrecipes.com http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Snow-Ice-Cream-II/Detail.aspx

**I made only about half a gallon and think I added too much sugar (half a cup). It was VERY sweet!  I’m sure that’s one reason why J loved it so much!  Next time I will start with less sugar and work up. 

22 months

Age Attempted: 22 months

Try Again?  I’m sure this will become a special snack each time it snows!  As he gets older he can measure out the ingredients and eventually read the recipe too.

Tape Shapes

J got a great gift from his Aunt… colorful bean bags!!  I’m so excited to use them for lots of fun!  This is my first official activity using them.  I used painters tape to create various shapes on thekitchen floor, in this case a square, triangle and rectangle.  We’re currently emphasizing the rectangle in our house since it’s one of the basic shapes that J hasn’t consistently recognized yet.  I chose the triangle and the square because he’s better as those (adding just one unfamiliar shape at a time).

I then gave J specific directions, “Toss the green beanbag into the square!”  He enjoyed trying to toss them inside the shapes.  I requested a specific color bean bag to reinforce colors.  He’s pretty good at most of his colors which kept this activity focused more on the shapes.  You could definitely use the painted shapes without the bean bags… “Crawl to the circle! Walk to the square!  Walk backwards to the triangle!”

This was also a great way to emphasize inside and outside as well as fill and empty (“Empty the triangle!”)

As a side note – I left these shapes on the floor for a full week.  They’re very convenient!  If you need your toddler contained for a bit, “J, sit on the square!  Eat your snack in the rectangle!”  It gives them obvious boundaries and helps them easily understand what you’re asking of them. 

22 months

Age Attempted?  22 months

Try Again?  Yes, maybe different activities using the floor shapes.

Pillow Talk

20 months

J has discovered a love for pillows. He cracks up when I push him onto my bed of pillows (even when I push him pretty hard!).  Of course we jump on them.  Recently he’s started pulling the throw pillows onto the floor to create trails on the floor from the chair to the couch. He starts at one end and walks/crawls/moves backwards along the path.  

We play stop and go on the pillow trail (stop when mom calls stop, go when mom calls go).  I’ve also practiced colors this way. Since our pillows are different colors I’ve called out instructions fro him to follow like “Stop on a red pillow!”, “Sit on a black pillow!”

Age Attempted: 20 months

Teachable Moments: Follow instructions, colors, Stop and Go, great practice with balancing

Try Again?  This is something we play almost once a week.

Gluing Cotton Balls

This is a great first attempt at gluing.  It went better than using a glue stick actually.  I just put a small amount of glue on a paper plate and showed J how to dip the cotton ball into the glue and then onto the paper.  The cotton ball is the perfect size for his hand.  He doesn’t end up with glue all over his hands with this activity. 

This first time I had J glue cotton balls wasn’t too creative.  I was really just filling time with an idea in the back of my head (I think it was from the Toddler Busy Book). As you can see with our example, it isn’t too impressive.  It has been snowing outside earlier that week, so I told him we were going to make a snow picture.  That was enough for J. :)  It was simply good practice for him, but not necessarily a project to frame.

Please don’t laugh at my snowman.  I just decided to show him how to stack three snowballs on top of each other, to create a snowman.  I grabbed the nearest marker and quickly added a hat, face and arms.  He was impressed.  God bless this child who loves mom’s poor artwork!   

Age attempted:  around 19 months I think; I definitely could’ve tried this at an earlier age.

Teachable Moments:  I didn’t really capitalize on this!  I just focused on teaching him the purpose of glue and how to correctly use it.

Future Potential:  Have him glue the correct number cotton balls next to the number fo the day.  Have him fill a shape (work on inside/outside; filling) with cotton balls; clouds at the end of a rainbow,  hmmm… that’s all I’ve got!

Clean “Painting”

Our most recent activity included construction paper and water and it entertained J for 10 minutes easily which is quite a feat at this age.  I added some sponges and got another 10 minutes…then added ice and got 5 more minutes out of him. This was SO easy, required basically NO prep work, and less clean up than after a meal.

Our color of the day was green, so I gave him a piece of green construction paper and a small dish of water. I showed him how he could “paint” with his finger and he began his masterpiece. He then painted with the sponges and ice. He had a blast. We got to talk about wet and dry.  I did have to add a second piece of paper since the first became rather water logged. Unfortunately my artist’s hard work dried by the end of naptime, so nothing to show off to dad.

I’ve heard of mom’s using paint brushes for this, but I didn’t have any that were small enough.  We do use some larger ones to paint the deck outside with water, so that’s an idea.

17 months

Age Attempted: 17 months; I should’ve done this one much earlier. I think he could’ve enjoyed this as early as one year.

Teachable Moments:  Talk about wet and dry, the color of paper he’s painting, paint lines/dots/shapes/letters

Try Again? Definitely.  We have since added paint brushes to this activity.  I use thisas a quick go-to activity on extended family trips to visit Grandparents since it really only requires some construction paper.