Monthly Archives: December 2010

Homemade Game: What’s In the Stocking?

We played this fun and simple game and ever since J has been bringing me the stocking and asking to play again. 

How to Play:  Gather a group of items from around the house with different shapes, textures, and purpose.  Older children could handle more suddle differences in the objects.  Keep them hidden from sight.  Place one item in a Christmas stocking and have your little one feel inside and make a guess at what the item is.  I encouraged J to describe the item as he felt it to help him make an educated guess. 

This is so simple, no reason not to try it!  With older kids you could even make this a game you play on Christmas morning.  Younger ones might have a hard time with guessing items they’ve haven’t seen yet. 

This is great for exploring textures, using simple deductive reasoning, and practicing descriptive words.

Last night we reversed rolls.  He hid things inside and brought me the stocking to make a guess.  It actually worked great while I was cooking.  It kept him well occupied.  Every few minutes I heard, “Mommy no peeking! Just look!”  (What he meant was, “no peeking, just feel”).  Of course it took him awhile to realize he should let me make a guess before he told me what it was.  He was just so excited!

Age attempted: 31 months (certainly can be done earlier!)

**I’m even categorizing this as a good travel activity since a similar version could easily be done in the car or on a plane.  Just use a bag or the seat-back pocket on the plane.


Seeds Family Worship CD Update

Seeds of Character Pre-Order - Give the Gift of Scripture MemorizationI just realized that our Seeds Family Worship coupon is soon to expire!  You have 4 more days to get the 20% discount with our coupon code ENGAGINGTODDLERS

These are excellent cds for kids (and adults!) that put scripture to song.  They are extremely well written so that really any age group would love them. I love to hear my toddler walking around singing God’s Word.  These would be great gifts for practically any age, family or friend.  In fact, I’ve given them myself as gifts MANY times. 

Don’t forget, you also get a free cd for every one that you purchase, so really the 20% off is icing on the cake.  Great songs, divine lyrics (literally), free cd AND 20% off.  If you want to know more about their ministry or their music, check out my other posts here or visit their website.

They’re soon to release their new cd, Seeds of Character.  You can preorder the cd now and also receive 6 songs from the new cd to download now. 

Be sure to use the coupon code ENGAGINGTODDLERS at checkout for 20% off your purchase!  This code expires December 14, 2010.

Homemade Gifts for Christmas

We’ve all probably seen little ones busy at play on Christmas morning, usually with an empty box or crumpled tissue paper, while the $30 gift sits alone in the corner.  Especially when they’re young. there’s no need to break a budget for Christmas.  Here’s some of J’s best homemade toys and games from birth to his current 2.5 years.  None of these are difficult to make and they have all provided him with a TON of playtime and learning time.  If you’re looking for a little something extra to include under the tree for your little ones, these just might work!  Include just one homemade gift or put together an entire busy box like these.

Baby & Pre-Toddler (6-18 months)

Family Board Books

Family Photo Cards

Texture Cards

Pipe Cleaner in a Bottle

Color Cards

Egg Cartons

Early Toddler (18-24 months)

Pipe Cleaners in a Bottle

Egg Cartons

Pushing Puff Balls

Sponge Jewelry (aka Stringing Sponges)


Matching Boards or this

Toddler (2-3 years)

Magnetic Pompoms


Thomas Puzzle

Color (and Number) Wheel

You can also check out the category link Homemade Toys or Homemade Games for other suggestions. 

And remember, they don’t need fancy.  In fact at this age, they will most likely not notice at all if you spent tons of time making the homemade toys “cute”.  At these ages, they’re all about function and entertainment!

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!

Christmas Activity Index

This time I included my Christmas Activity Index as a new page.  Click on the link in the header to see the fun activities I’ve found and want to try to incorporate this season.  I describe more in detail how I’ve used my indexes here  (present) and here (past) for those looking for planning tips. 

I’ll probably be adding to the list over the next few days and have already decided some of the activities can wait for January since they aren’t specific to Christmas (and we definitely won’t have time to complete them all in the next few weeks!). 

I plan to save my actual posts for describing activities I’ve personally tried with J.

I hope the index helps others too!

Ziploc Photo Books

My grandparents are always telling me that really all they want for birthdays or Mother’s day are lots of pictures to show off.  So this year, J made a photo-filled birthday card for his great-grandma.  This would be a great art project for toddlers to give at Christmas time.

All you really need is a stack of ziploc bags, photos and a stapler and/or duct tape.  To make this activity last longer, I added construction paper and various art supplies to the materials.  I set out the materials and J chose how to decorate each page (stamps, stickers, dot markers, crayons, rolling stamps, …  hmmm that’s all I remember).  He then chose which picture he wanted to place with each page and placed both his art piece and his photo into the ziploc bag.  I stapled all the opened end of the bags together and covered it with fun green duct tape. 

Older kids could write their own story, draw their own pictures and give their first published piece to grandpa or grandma. 

Age attempted:  29 months

Homemade Christmas Card

J made these Christmas tree cards to include in our shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.  I precut the trees then he lined them up according to size and glued them onto the paper like a puzzle.  (I sneak in some learning whenever possible!)  He glued the different jewels on for decoration, added a star sticker and trunk and was finished.  I thought they turned out pretty cute. 

Age attempted: 30 months