I’ve seen this activity on tons of blogs since I first started looking and finally thought J was old enough to manage it. The first time I brought it out he was excited but soon just wanted to point out where each clothespin belonged and have me do the physical labor. Pinching the clothespin was difficult for him. I felt ridiculous that I couldn’t figure out a good way to teach him to use the clothespin. A week later we tried again. We practiced opening and closing the clothespins together and I realized he could manage them on his own if he used both hands. So for now I hold the color wheel for him while he squeezes the clothespin open. Hopefully he will soon develop the hand muscles needed to have more control. Since he knows his colors, the fine motor skills is really the purpose of this activity.
(I don’t have a pic of J in action because I don’t have a free hand to snap the photo)
Age attempted: 24 months
I finally made a harder version of the pipe cleaner toy that J loves. It was one of the first activities I found when websurfing but of course I didn’t save the link so I have no idea where the idea came from. ETA: I found the link!
This particular one is actually a gift for a friend’s little girl, but I let J give it a trial run. I should’ve made this for him when he was younger. It would’ve been a great challege for colors; now it’s just good practice. The original pipe cleaner toy is SUCH a huge hit and has been for a full year now. It is probably the top homemade toy in our house (or at least in the top three). As he got older of course it got easier. Adding the color matching to the toy makes gives him one more challenge to the task.
This particular toy is an empty oatmeal container. I used a knife to cut holes into the lid and added some reinforcements that I colored to match the pipe cleaners. Done!
UPDATED: A reader just asked me a great question that might help others out too!
How do you avoid the sharp end of the pipe cleaner?
I’ve always folded and twists the ends over to keep from that sharp exposed wire. When J was really young, I twisted them in half since that length was enough of a challenge for his fine motor skills. As he got older I could lengthen the pipe cleaners and just fold down the edge. This doesn’t remedy the problem completely, but it keeps their fingers from getting poked. It’s still something you want to watch since eyes can get poked. Oh and I’ve found the cheaper pipe cleaners have less fluff around them which means the ends poke more. You could also use colorful straws instead of the pipe cleaners. That might be a great option for some. I preferred pipe cleaners since we used this activity on planes most often and I liked that the pipe cleaners could be used for lots of other activities on the trip as well.
Age attempted: with colors, 24 months but could be done much much earlier; without colors, around 12 months
Posted in Age Range, Colors, Early Toddler (18-24 months), Homemade Toys, Motor Skills, Pre-Toddler (12-18 months), Subject, Table Time, Toddler (2-3 years), Travel Activities
Tagged Colors, Motor Skills, Travel
I came across these whistles at the party store (I think 12 per bag) and decided they would be an easy and cheap toy for J. I of course don’t use them as whistles, but as a stacking toy for him. They’re great to use for separating colors and for creating patterns. I have also rolled out some playdoh and had him stack them the opposite way (small side stuck into the playdoh). Maybe I’ll create a peg board at some point so that it works better. For now, he enjoys stacking them as in the photo and of course knocking down the towers and rolling the pieces all over the floor!
Age: 24 months, but this would be a great toy for a younger toddler.
I’m really late in posting about this since we did this back around Easter. It really doesn’t have to be done with Easter though.
Egg Surprises – I found random “surprises” that could fit inside a plastic egg and also match the color of the egg. J first opened each egg to discover what was inside and then he returned them to the correct colored egg. Simple to create and fun for J!
I also did a number activity with the eggs. I numbered 12 eggs and then we practiced counting by putting the eggs in order inside the carton.
My SIL told me about an easy activity that my nephew’s preschool teacher did with the class. She numbered 12 plastic eggs and then numbered the holes in an egg carton. The kids had to match the numbers. This would be something J could do better on his own. With just the egg’s numbered, it requires me to stay with him to help.
Altering the traditional egg hunt a bit - J actually had 3 egg hunts over Easter and I noticed that he J wasn’t too interested in the traditional random egg hunt. He kept looking at me with this, “Why do I have to pick up the eggs??? I didn’t put them there!!” But when I gave him a bit of a challenge along with the egg hunt, he really had fun with it.
We did a solo hunt alone with these animal matching eggs I got at Walmart. I started by showing him an animal egg and telling him to find the match somewhere in the yard. Then we moved onto the next animal egg until we had matched them all. He really liked this.
We also did a family hunt with his cousins where he was given 2 different colored eggs to search for. He could only pick up orange and green eggs. This worked really well, kept him engaged and kept his older cousins from finding all the eggs before J got some.
Age attempted: 23 months at first
Posted in Age Range, Colors, Counting, Early Preschool (3-4 years), Early Toddler (18-24 months), Easter, Holidays and Seasons, Math, Preschool (4-5 years), Subject, Toddler (2-3 years)
I made a simple mailman activity for my niece to include in her 1 Year old Busy Box (check out #3 on the link). At her level, it basically included the foam envelopes and a small metal mailbox. She could open and close the mailbox, lift up the flag, and play the “In and Out” game that ALL 1 year olds seem to love! I kept wanting to make something similar for J.
I got the first mailbox at Michael’s Craft Store but haven’t been able to find them since so I decided to make one with a shoebox… until I came across this mailbox in the Valentine’s clearance section at Target.
It’s made of cardboard and opens and closes like normal on the side. It also has a small slit at the top (originally to place valentine’s card inside). Regular size foam fits perfectly in the slit on top. I cut the foam envelopes according the the length of the slit and then labeled each with both a mailing and a return “address” and drew a stamp in the upper right. If you wanted, you could use real stickers and have your toddler place the stamp on each envelope.
I’ve had this activity made for ever, but just brought it out this week. I’m glad I waited. Since the foam envelopes barely fit in the mailbox slit, it makes it an appropriately challenging activity for J’s current level. He has to be very careful to get the foam inside the slit and then he has to work slowly to push the foam envelope down. Since foam bends if he pushes too hard or moves to fast the long envelopes will just bend over the top of the mailbox instead of falling inside. It was a GREAT fine motor skill activity for him.
Lots of concentration going on!!
He got really frustrated at first. Dad stepped in and showed him how to hold the envelope on the sides with both hands and SLOWLY push it into the mailbox. From then on he loved it. He stuck with it for awhile. The fact that he had to focus so much and was, in the end, able to complete the task tells me he’s at the right developmental level for this. I’m actually glad the slit was so small. If I had made one myslef, I wouldn’t have made the slit that small which would’ve made it to easy for him.
It can also act as a name recognition game… he can “deliver” the envelopes to the correct person (in this case, Mommy, Daddy, and J) or he can just stack them according to name. When he’s older, I could add more recipients and J could sort them next to the recipients picture.
He can of course also sort them by color, count the numbe of envelopes each person recieved (or according to color).
Age attempted: 25 months; a younger toddler can insert the mail through a larger slit or through the door on the mailbox.
Here’s the picture of my niece’s Mailman game
Posted in Age Range, Colors, Early Toddler (18-24 months), Homemade Toys, Motor Skills, Pre-Toddler (12-18 months), Reading and Writing, Subject, Table Time, Toddler (2-3 years), Valentines Day
Tagged Colors, Letters, Motor Skills
I got this idea from Little Hands, Big Work (an awesome blog by the way!) and tried it the very next day. We all know how much I LOVE sidewalk chalk.
(See this post or this post for more on sidewalk chalk)
You basically draw circle paths along the driveway in various colors. You’ll notice in my picture that our paths were quite easy with only a couple intersecting colors. The idea is to call out a color and have your toddler jump, run or skip along that particular color route.
The activity was definitely a win! J took to it immediately (though he didn’t always want to follow the rules of the game!) I should also mention that the neighborhood kids loved this activity too. I had kids coming to play on my driveway all week!
Age Attempted: 24 months (he could’ve done this earlier I think); You could make this harder by adding more colors, more intersections, drawing different shape paths (in repeated colors, so they would have to follow the red triangles NOT the red hearts).
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
Posted in Age Range, Arts and Crafts, Colors, Early Toddler (18-24 months), Hot and Cold, Letters, Pre-Toddler (12-18 months), Reading and Writing, Science, Subject, Toddler (2-3 years)
Tagged Colors, Letters, Science
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.
Posted in Age Range, Babyhood (6-12 months), Colors, Early Toddler (18-24 months), Fill and Empty, Homemade Toys, Inside and Outside, Motor Skills, Pre-Toddler (12-18 months), Subject, Table Time, Toddler (2-3 years), Travel Activities
Tagged Colors, Homemade Toys, Motor Skills
You may have seen this post describing J’s homemade version of stringing beads. Well, of course you can use the sponge curlers as they come as an easy toy to encourage more practice with fine motor skills. Often changing just one aspect of an activity makes it seem brand new to J. So sometimes I pull out the plastic pieces that the sponges came with and J matches the correct color sponge with the (we have two sets pink and black). Cutting the sponges into halves or thirds obviouslylengthens the task and gives him more practice at stringing them. It’s also a good way to emphasize size.
We haven’t done this activity yet, but you could first have organize the sponges by size before threading them. Talk about how many are necessary to fill up the curler peg…. when you’re threading the smallest size, the medium size, the largest size sponges. When he’s much older this could be a great hands on activity for whole, half, and thirds.
Age Attempted: 23 months, could’ve done this earlier
Teachable Moments: Encourage them to thread the correct color sponge on it’s matching peg; encourage them to fill up the peg (size)
Try Again? Yes, it can grow with J
Posted in Age Range, Colors, Counting, Early Toddler (18-24 months), Future Activity, Homemade Toys, Math, Motor Skills, Size, Table Time, Toddler (2-3 years), Travel Activities
Tagged Homemade Toys, matching, Size
J is really into matching his toys. He is constantly finding ways to organize trains, tracks, blocks, beads,… We have these Melissa and Doug wooden lacing beads and I noticed J was constantly turning the wooden tray over so that he could match the colorful beads to the pictures on the tray. Unfortunately there were only a few pictures to match. So I decided to create a matching board that included all the beads. This was something I did quickly while J was playing nearby, so the final product certainly has mistakes! I just traced each bead and then added color to match each one. You could probably create a board like this using powerpoint that looks much more professional. J didn’t notice the mistakes at all. He loved the board and went straight to work.
Age attempted: 22 months
Teachable Moments: label the shapes and colors, recognize color patterns, number recognition
Try Again? Yes, I pull this matching board out maybe once a week
You obviously could create a matching board for lots of different toys your little one already owns. Letter blocks, stacking toys, flashcards, cars, trains, letter/number magnets, … I’m sure you can come up with lots of ideas. Please share your ideas!!
Posted in Age Range, Colors, Counting, Early Toddler (18-24 months), Games, Homemade Games, Math, Patterns, Shapes, Toddler (2-3 years)
Tagged Colors, Counting, Homemade Games, matching, Patterns, Shapes