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.