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.
This activity took J’s matching skills up a notch and was cheap, very easy to prepare and from start to finish allowed for lots of play time.
First, we got some of those growing sponges from the dollar section as Target. I have no clue what these are actually called, but they come in little pill shapes and grow in warm water? I gave J a few new ones to play with during bathtime over the past few days. He’s still entertained by 2 or 3 at a time, so I might as well get good use out of that dollar. I tried implementing some learning during this time, keeping one in hot water and one in cooler water to see which grew the fastest. On another night we kept one still in a cup and the other he got to pour from one cup to the other to see if that made it grow faster. Honestly though, J was paying little attention to the mini-science experiment and just wanted to play with them.
We saved all the sponge creatures and when he finished the entire package I dried them all out and stored them with the packaging for a rainy day. On the back of the package, there is a silhouette of each creature along with its name. I cut those out into individual pieces and had J match the sponge creature to its silhouette. I keep a few different sets of these in ziploc baggies to pull out every now and then. As he improves, I increase the number to match each time. He thinks it’s a puzzle (and he loves puzzles).
This type of matching is actually a little more difficult because…
- they aren’t matching two exact items but rather an object and an image
- there is a size difference in the objects and images
- the silhoueete factor means there is little detail to each object and image, forcing to look at the outline of each object (and J often does not actually know what the object is so he must focus on shape)
- the colors of the image and object aren’t always the same
Age attempted: around 33 months
Snowflake Bentley, by Jacqueline Briggs Martin is a book I happened upon at the library. It’s a non-fiction book actually, but told in story-book fashion about a boy named Willie Bentley who was fascinated with snowflakes. As a child he would catch the snowflakes and attempt to draw them on paper before they melted. Eventually his parents bought him a microscope camera to photograph the snowflakes. Can you imagine trying to photograph a snowflake using an 1882 camera!?! I’m sure we’d all have trouble with our modern DSLRs! Amazingly, he stuck to his goal. He held slideshows for townspeople to come see his photographs which were eventually published in a book called Snow Crystals that is used by colleges and universities. His fascination led to the discovery that all snowflakes are unique.
Throughout the book there are sidebars with extra facts about snow, William Bentley and his work. I’m so glad I came across this book. We used it to kick-start a discussion about snowflakes, photography, persistence, dedication and a job well-done.
Here’s a couple activities we did to go along with the book:
1. Snowflake matching - I googled Snowflake Bentley photographs and printed out two copies of the same photos. At first I presented 3-4 to match at a time since you have to really examine some to find the differences. As he got better, he could match more at a time.
2. Snowflake puzzle – I cut some of Bentley’s photos in half, mixed them all up and J found the two symmetrical sides to join together and create a snowflake. This was a great way to emphasize the meaning of symmetrical. These 2 activities really met J’s current ability level since I could easily make the level of difficulty was just right for him by picking and choosing the snowflakes to match.
Age attempted: 33 months; you could go into so much more detail for older kids and increase the difficulty of the activities by using snowflakes that are more similar in comparison
This was an activity J did sometime during the summer when we were talking about how God created the plants. It was simple yet effective and included very little prep work! My favorite
During a morning walk, we gathered a group of leaves from a few different trees (or bushes; J was adamant we chose a certain leaf from a bush!). When we got home we examined the different kinds of leaves we chose. How many points do they have? Shape? Color? Smooth or rough?
- Sorry for the dark photo. My normal camera was packed away in a boz so I used my iphone.
Then I mixed all the leaves together, cut out three tree trunks (we used 3 different types of leaves) and J sorted the leaves to replicate the three different trees.
He did this activity on contact paper since I wasn’t sure if glue would hold the leaves in place quickly enough. I imagined a mess honestly and didn’t have time for one this day.
Age attempted: between 2 and 2.5 years
This is a GREAT travel toy. I bought one about a year ago and have brought it on every flight we’ve taken since. It is always a winner. It’s light weight (a must for a travel toy IMO). We have the Rush Hour version shown here. There are a TON of choices out there. Here’s a quick list, though it’s really only showing one particular brand. They are a little more expensive but we have more than gotten our money out of this toy! I’ve found other examples at Ross, Marshall’s and TJ Maxx too. I just bought a couple new ones and am excited to show them to J.
This would also be great to take on a road trip, to the doctor’s office, and to restaurants.
TIP: Don’t toss the empty sticker sheets! J spends just as much time returning the pieces to the correct spot as he does putting them on the actual board. And it’s great matching practice since he really has to focus on the outline shape of each piece to find where they go.
Age attempted: started between 16 and 18 months (if your little one can handle stickers, they can handle this toy), still a winner at 2.5 years
I have a box full of different empty containers with their lids. Each container is a different size or different color. Some have screw-on lids and some lids pop on and off. I set them all out in front of J and had him match the lids to the containers. We talked about the shape of the container and looked for a similary shaped lid and then he practiced placing the lid on the container himself. He still has trouble with screw-on lids (he keeps wanting to screw them back and forth and of course they’ll never get tight that way!). You might have seen this post that describes one of J’s chores (that he thinks is a game!). Whether as a chore or just for fun, this activity is an easy way to keep him busy for awhile and it’s good practice for him too!
Age attempted: 23 months, could be done much earlier though they might need more help with screw-on lids
Teachable moments: size, shape, practice with motor skills when attaching lids
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.
Posted in Age Range, Birthday, Colors, Counting, Early Toddler (18-24 months), Games, Holidays and Seasons, Homemade Toys, Letters, Math, Motor Skills, Music, Patterns, Products, Reading and Writing, Subject, Table Time
Tagged Busy Box, Colors, Counting, Great Products, Homemade Toys, matching, Motor Skills
J is becoming more and more involved in helping around the house. He already helps put away his sippy cups and even thinks its a fun game (see this post)! I’ve recently started allowing him to replace the utencils too.
I sit J down with the basket of clean utencils and the utencil tray. Of course I first remove the knives! His job is to replace the clean utencils in the correct section of the tray. This is actually great practice with matching that really incorporates size recognition since he has to detect the difference in the small and large forks as well as the small and large spoons. He doesn’t get it right everytime, but he is improving.
I used to just have him hand me the clean utencils from the dishwasher and I would place them in the drawer myself. When I read this post from Children’s Learning Activities, I realized he could easily complete the entire task himself!
By the way, it is also his job to place the dirty utencils in the basket to be placed in the dishwasher. I rinse them off first and he takes care of the rest! He feels like he’s accomplished something to help mommy and I didn’t have to bend over again and again to reach the dishwasher!
Age attempted: I don’t really remember when he started helping with the utencils, probably around 13 months; he started returning them to the utencil drawer himself at 22 months.
Teachable moments: We’ve talked about the difference in dirty and clean, why we have to clean our used dishes, the size of the different utencils, and of course working together as a family to help around the house!
Posted in Age Range, Chores, Early Preschool (3-4 years), Early Toddler (18-24 months), Family, Life Skills, My Little Helper, Pre-Toddler (12-18 months), Preschool (4-5 years), Size, Toddler (2-3 years)
Tagged Chores, matching, Size
We’ve done a few crafts this way and I’ve found they work really well for toddlers. It requires simple shape matching and gluing.
First I cut out the pieces and traced the shapes into the desired shape on construction paper. In this case it was 3 circles (though hearts would probably make them look more like clovers… didn’t think about that until it was already done!) I did not trace the stem of the clover; we just added that last.
J helps match the shape cut-outs to the traced shapes on the paper. Using a Q-tip, he glues the shape in place.
This is J’s final product.
J has also made a flower and a sun using this same process (I’ll post those pictures later). I have planned some pictures where he has to match multiple shapes in one activity.
Age attempted: this particular one was at 23 months, the flower and sun were done around 19 months
Teachable Moments: I emphasize the shapes in the project, how to use glue (he uses the Q-tip to place a dab of glue inside the shapes)
Try Again? Similar activities, yes
Posted in Age Range, Arts and Crafts, Early Preschool (3-4 years), Early Toddler (18-24 months), Holidays and Seasons, Math, Pre-Toddler (12-18 months), Preschool (4-5 years), Shapes, St. Patrick's Day, Toddler (2-3 years)
Tagged matching, Shapes
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