Category Archives: Table Time

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 :)

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.

Homemade Toy: Magnetic Pompoms

When I was writing the Apple Picking post, I realized I never actually introduced our magnetic pompoms.  This has been a great homemade toy for J.  I saw it multiple places online when J was much younger and just waited until I was confident he would be safe with the small magnets.  We’ve never had one fall off, but you never know. I wouldn’t leave little ones alone with this toy until you were 100% confident they wouldn’t try a taste test.

This is a great addition to a busy box gift for older toddlers/preschoolers.  Include the pompoms, a small cookie sheet (found at dollar stores) and some blank templates and/or patterns to follow.  A great and unique toy on a budget. It would even be a good homemade Christmas gift.

To Make: All you do is hot glue magnets onto the back of pompom balls.  Use the free magnets you get in the mail to save money or buy roll of magnets from the craft store.  You won’t need an entire roll, so it can be used for other things as well.  Be sure to include a variety of color pompoms and a large number of each color.  The more you have, the more your little one can create.  You can also use multiple sizes of pompoms if you want (I’ve only made one size).  Add a cookie sheet and you have a great toy.   Something about pompoms intrigues kids.

1. They can design pictures freely. 

No my toddler did not create this picture :)  This is one I made for him as he called out things to create.  I forgot to snap pictures of his creations, though he makes a pretty good sun!

This homemade toy can be as simple as this and it will be worth the effort.

2. Black and white templates can be printed for them to fill in creatively.

I made this blank pompom template  for J to use.  You can also check out the links at the bottom of this post for sites I’ve found with printables.

3. Color printouts encourage them to match the correct colors.

 Here he is matching the pompoms to the corresponding colored circle in the gumball machine.  This type of activity is especially good for younger toddlers that are still working on their colors and fine motor skills.

It’s really easy to create your own, just copy and paste from Google images and add some colorful circles.

4. Patterns, sorting, counting, and colors

  I started the patterns and he found the right pompoms to continue it.  You could also show them a picture of a pattern and ask them to copy it on their own.  Preschoolers could work on much more intricate patterns or designs.

This shows some color sorting as well as our intro to bar graphs where he compared the different bars to decide which had the most/the least, which were equal,…  We finished by counting each bar to see we were right.

6. Shapes, Location

 As of now we create them together, he copies my examples (or tries to),  or he gives me instructions on what to create and where (good directional practice for them).

For older ones you can give them instructions to create a certain color/size shape, include location of the shape to increase the difficulty (ex: make a purple triangle inside the circle).

6. Letters and Numbers  

Have your little one trace letters and numbers or “write” them on their own using the pompoms.  You can draw large block letters or numbers for them to fill in with the pompoms.  They can match the correct number of pompoms next to the correct number.  Or check out the list of online templates I found. 

I’ve seen activity books for Dot Markers that would work well with magnetic pompoms.  Of course any of the templates for magnetic pompoms could also be used with Dot Markers or circles stickers too.

Other Printable Templates: 

Shapes  and Colors (from Home Grown Hearts)

Number cards (from 1+1+1=1)

Numbers (from Making Learning Fun)

Upper Case Letters and Lower Case letters (from Making Learning Fun)

B&W Pictures (From Making Learning Fun)

Color Pictures (From Making Learning Fun)

(For the Making Learning Fun templates, I had to copy the templates and paste it onto ppt to expand each picture.  When I printed these straight from the website, the circles were much smaller than I wanted.)

If you find any other great templates let me know and I’ll add them to the list!

Sticker Activity on the Plane (or at home!)

He asked me to draw more smiley faces on the paper afterwards.

In my post  about our last plane trip, I mentioned a sticker activity that J did on the plane.  It worked perfectly for the trip so I thought I would share.

I had some smiley face stickers in various colors that J has for whatever reason fallen in love with.  On a sheet of paper I made 5 large circles using the colors of the stickers I had (purple, red, green, yellow and pink).  I gave J the sheet of stickers along with the paper with empty circles and he placed the stickers inside it’s circle match.  We then counted the number of stickers inside each circle, which in our case was different for each circle. 

This offered practice matching colors, some fine motor practice (peeling the stickers off and placing them in the correct spot on the paper), and then with counting too.  It wasn’t too hard for J, which is ideal for plane activities.  I like the activities we do to keep him busy, involve my help at times, but also something he could do on his own.  Because there was a set goal to be accomplished, it kept him busy until all stickers were transfered.  As he’s getting older, TIP: I like our plane activities to have specific goals to encourage him to stay with it longer than he might if left on his own since my offical goal is to keep him occupied and content for the duration of the flight.  If he wants to do more stickers afterwards that’s fine, but I know he will at least remain occupied until the end of the activity. Of course this activity doesn’t have to be done on a plane. 

You could do the same type of activity while practicing shapes and number recognition too (in fact, there’s a number activity coming up in a future post).

Age: 25 months

20 Month Old Busy Box

I put together these activities for a friend’s little girl.  While mommy is serving in Iraq, I thought this busy box might help to keep her little one busy and hopefully even allow her dad some much needed time off from entertaining.  Most of the activities are homemade, repurposing items from around the house as is my norm. I housed them in a simple decorative box.  J’s own “busy box”  is kept in a closet and the activities are only brought out at certain times throughout the week.  This helps keep it’s novelty.  Some of the activities are repeats from the 1 year old Busy Box I made my niece awhile back, though I tried to make them a bit more difficult for the older age.  You’ll also notice that these activities are mostly ones I’ve mentioned in previous posts.  When I make a busy box, I try to pick the most successful activities from J’s experience, many of these are motor skill activities.  Some of these activities are things Ella can enjoy now and some she will grow into in the next few months.

You’ll have to excuse my poor decorating abilities.  That is certainly not my forte.  Most of the original toys that I made for J aren’t decorated at all.  J never seemed to mind, so hopefully little Ella will look past the covers and still enjoy the meat of the activities!

1.  Pushing Puff Balls – this is a fine motor activity and has always kept J entertained; see this post for more info

2. Color Sorting Pipe Cleaners – again a fine motor activity and I added practice with colors; this is probably the favorite homemade toy for J; see this post and this post for more info

3.  Color Wheel – practice with colors and fine motor skills; you can use the wheel in other ways too. See this post and this post fore more.

4. Puzzles -These foam puzzles were one of the best buys for J. They were just $1 at our local grocery store and I picked them up on the fly one time.  When I saw them there months later, I bought a few more as gifts. I bring the color puzzle on plane trips sometimes since there are few pieces and it’s very light. 

5. Family Bag – this is similar to J’s family magnet pics.  I added each family member’s name to Ella’s pics, laminated them (with contact paper) and gave her a little purse to carry them in.  J has loved his family pics since before he was one.  I thought adding the names could encourage name recognition.

6. Seed Family Worship CD – I had previously sent one of their CDs to my friend while she’s in Iraq, but thought her daughter might like one too.  These cd’s are really great and not just for kids IMO.  They are an excellent way to help us write God’s Word on our hearts.  See this post for more.

7. Fish Counting and Matching file folder game – J has a similar matching game, I just made this one a bit more durable by adding it to a file folder for safe keeping.  The envelope holds the laminated fish cards to match as well as the fish to place on the counting page.  I found the counting template here from Tot school and have used it many times with J.

8. Sponge Jewelry – a fine motor activity and again a favorite of J’s, simply thread the sponges onto the pipe cleaners.  I found a greater variety of sponges for Ella’s jewelry.  A girl needs to match!  See this post for more info.

Color Wheel for toddlers

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

Increased difficulty to pipe cleaner toy

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

Homemade Geoboard

I’ve seen this idea on lots of blogs throughout my activity searching  and finally decided I would make one too.  You can use this link on Mama Jenn to see how it’s made.  This is not only good shape practice, but it’s turning out to be good fine motor skill practice too.  J does have a hard time stretching the rubber bands to far enough, when left on his own he basically lays them across two pegs.  I have to encourage him to try and stretch them further. 

This is definitely an activity that we do together.  Even if he had the fine motor skills to do it on his own, I would still keep a close eye on him because the board is made with pushpins.  So far there is no sign at all that they might come out, but I’m not confident enough to walk away from him with this toy yet.  Also, removing the stretched rubber bands could potential shoot them across the room or into his leg which could hurt.  He can’t remove them on his own yet either, so we haven’t actually had an injury or anything, just FYI.

Homemade Toy: Playing Mailman

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

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