Monthly Archives: May 2010

Homemade Number Puzzles

I found these puzzles online (I’ll add the link as soon as I find it again!).  I thought they were so cute and decided to make them myself (as if we don’t already have enough number puzzles!).  I only made numbers 1-5 because I wanted to be sure J enjoyed them first. They are just glue and foam and weren’t too difficult to make. 

I have to be honest, the first time J saw these didn’t go so well.  He mostly wanted to try and pull the little circles off of the pieces. When I made it clear this was not allowed, he wasn’t too interested in the game. He made it through number 1 and 2 and went off to play with something else.   He was 23 months at the time and loved puzzles, just not these!  I was a bit disappointed.    So I put them away for awhile and tried again when he was 25 months and he flew through them so easily. 

As a review of the activity itself, I’m not that impressed.  He really matched the colors more than focused on counting and color matching is not something he needs practice on.  All in all the puzzles are cute, but not worth the effort IMO.  I don’t think I’ll be making more.  If I had it all to do again, I would at least keep the colors the same for all the pieces to encourage him to actually practice with his numbers and counting. 

23 months

Age attempted: 23 months (not interested in them); 25 months

Craft for Grandparents

My mom came to visit us a few weeks after Mother’s day, so I was saving J’s present for her as well as our present for her until then.  This was J’s gift to Ne’eNe’e (Grandma).  I printed the form as well as some colorful letter A’s and a picture of J and Ne’eNe’e together.  To be sure he placed the A’s in the correct spots, I drew a yellow dot where each A should be placed.  He glued those and the picture in place, colored the report card, and added some stickers at the end (I forgot to take a picture of his final product). 

I decided on the report card theme because my mom recently had to quit school and is disappointed that she wouldn’t have that 4.0 graduation she had been dreaming of.  A little reminder that she’s a straight A “student” in our books!

Age attempted: 25 months

Cars and Color Wheels

I came across this addition to the color wheel and knew it was perfect for J.  He loves cars and loves lining things up.  Perfect.   Well, the first attempt went just ok.  He matched one car to each color on the wheel and didn’t get what to do after that.  I tried showing him to line up the cars behind each color, but he wasn’t satisfied with that.  He wanted the car ON the appropriate space in the color wheel and since he couldn’t fit them all on the wheel, he contented himself with filling the wheel and was done.  Of course this still accomplishes the goal of matching colors.  It wasn’t until the second time I brought this activity out that he enjoyed lining the cars up.  It was good practice matching similar colors and did need some help with a few.

Age attempted: 1st – 24 months; 2nd- 25 months

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

Painting the Driveway

I remember when we were little, my sister and I used to spend FOREVER painting the bricks that surrounded the neighborhood pool with water.  Of course by the time we made it around the whole pool, the water had dried so we had to start over.  We had a goal and were determined to accomplish it!  My mom was free to talk with the other moms and we were completely content.  The paintbrushes were a permanent addition to our swimming bag for quite awhile.

So when J got old enough, I capitalized on this activity.  I used to put him on our back deck with a bowl of water and a paintbrush while I cooked dinner on the other side of the glass doors.  He was content (literally 3 feet away) painting the boards in the deck and I was free to cook without my pretoddler under my feet. 

At two years old, J is still entertained with just a paintbrush and water.   Sometimes he paints whatever he wants and sometimes I give him a goal to accomplish (paint all the steps, paint around the car).

This link and this link shows how to capitalize on a paintbrush and water indoors.

Age attempted: originally around 15 months, now 25 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

Whistle Stacking


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.

Mother’s Day

We’ve been sending my mom and grandma’s some of J’s artwork quite a bit and honestly thought they could use a little break from it 🙂 

They always tell me how much they’d rather get photos than store bought cards, so this year I incorporated our a photo of J into our Mother’s Day message…. with sidewalk chalk!  (again, gotta love this stuff!)

You can’t get much simpler than this.  J helped by “writing” the letters (scribbling over each one with his blue chalk) and then I coerced a smile out of him and snapped a picture.  Notice his hands up by his cheeks?  This is what he does when he’s being forced to smile(shhh… don’t tell the grandmas!).  I printed the photos, along with a few other favorite shots from the past month and mailed them in place of a Mother’s day card. 

Age: 24 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.

More Fun with Numbers

I recently bought him these large number puzzles that are really great IMO.  Each number has the corresponding amount of pieces to create it (#2 has two pieces, #8 is an eight piece puzzle), they are shaped as the number itself and they have the corresponding number of animals on it too.  This provides LOTS of opportunities to count just by completing the set.  I also bought it at a discount store, so it was a cheap find!! 

After we completed the puzzles, J got out his many other number puzzles and began to match the numbers.  He came up with this activity on his own.

(Don’t ask me why we have so many number puzzles!!)