Category Archives: Patterns

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.


Homemade Toys: PVC Pipe Building

I didn’t actually make one of these toys myself, but if you’re handy (or have a really handy husband), this is really a great toy.  J got to play with this on a recent trip to a children’s museum. 

23 months

They had two peg boards standing across from each other and with a tray of short, long, t-shaped, and corner pipes.  I have no clue what their technical names are!   All J had to do was fit the pipes together to build.  I was surprised how well he did with this.  I did have to point out the size of the pipe holes since you had to place one of the connectors in between the straight pipes.  He had a hard time remembering that. 

Age attempted: 23 months; a younger toddler could easily fill the holes with individual pipe pieces instead of attempting to extend the pipes from wall to wall

Teachable Moments:  ask them to send the pipes up/down, requires an understanding of patterns to do this on their own (rotate between straight pipes and connectors)

Try Again?  Not at home, I can’t see us buying the pipes/peg boards nor do I want to store them it could work in a garage.  He’ll have to wait till we visit the children’s museum again!

Homemade Toy – Stringing Sponges

In one of my trips through the dollar store, in search of cheap, light weight “toys” to keep my toddler busy on planes, I came up with this version of stringing beads. 

I bought a couple packages of sponge curlers (the kind some of us slept in when we were little).  They came in black and pink in our dollar store.  I took them home and sliced some in thirds, some in half, and kept others the full length.  I keep them in a small wipee box with some pipe cleaners.  The sponges are perfect to string on the pipe cleaners.  I think it’s a little easier for them use the pipe cleaners than regular string, making this activity possible at a younger age.  Wealso make jewelry with them or link them together to create a chain (thought J needs a lot of help with that).

23 months

This makes a good plane/travel activity because it keeps them occupied for awhile, it reuses the same materials from other plane activities (so you have to pack less), and it’s lightweight.  The disadvantage is that the sponges can be decidedly fun to throw around on the plane (but at least they don’t hurt if they hit you and they’re cheap, so it’s not terrible if some are lost).  This works well for J now at 23 months; our first experience with this plane activity (at 14 months) didn’t go as well.   

Age attempted:  14 months (too young for on the plane), better by 18 months and good at it by 23 months

Teachable Moments:  We’ve worked on the meaning of push and pull with this.  You can make patterns with the different colors, practice counting by assigning a different number of sponge beads for each pipe cleaner

Try Again?  This is usually an activity I either bring on the plane or have in the hotel; it is saved for those events to keep it’s novelty but still gets used fairly often

Homemade Game: Matching Blocks

J is really into matching his toys.  He is constantly finding ways to organize trains, tracks, blocks, beads,…  We have these Melissa and Doug wooden lacing beads and I noticed J was constantly turning the wooden tray over so that he could match the colorful beads to the pictures on the tray.  Unfortunately there were only a few pictures to match.  So I decided to create a matching board that included all the beads.  This was something I did quickly while J was playing nearby, so the final product certainly has mistakes! I just traced each bead and then added color to match each one.  You could probably create a board like this using powerpoint that looks much more professional.  J didn’t notice the mistakes at all.  He loved the board and went straight to work. 

Age attempted: 22 months

Teachable Moments:  label the shapes and colors, recognize color patterns, number recognition

Try Again? Yes, I pull this matching board out maybe once a week

You obviously could create a matching board for lots of different toys your little one already owns.  Letter blocks, stacking toys, flashcards, cars, trains, letter/number magnets, …  I’m sure you can come up with lots of ideas.  Please share your ideas!!


I gave J a bowl of colored stones (for his two different colors, but as he gets older I can add more colors) and an empty ice cube tray.  The first step was to fill each section with one stone (I wasn’t concerned with colors at this point). It’s basically a simple pattern, each spot needs one stone.  Then he emptied the tray and I had him fill one side with red stones and the other side with blue stones.

I’ve done the same thing with the colored pom pom balls.  Really you could use anything small enough to fit.  Somtimes changing the sorting item is enough to make get J interested again, especially if it’s not really a toy!  Oooh, I get to play with rocks now!  Oooh  paperclips!!! Ooooh  erasers!!!

19 months

Age?  First done (with pompom balls) around 16 months; color sorting at 19 months

Try Again?  Yes, as long as the difficulty increases with age.  As he gets older and better at counting I can specify the number of stones in each section or have him add one more stone in each subsequent section (so he has one stone in box one, two stones in box two, …).  I can also incorporate motor skills by having him use a spoon or tongs to transfer the stones.

Connect Four

I started rummaging through each room in our house, on the search for potential activities for J.  I came across the game Connect Four and knew J would love it.  He loves any form of the “In and Out” game!  It also happened to coincide with our circle week, so the circle-shaped chips would be another opportunity to reinforce our shape of the week. 

At 16 months, he wasn’t ready to play the games per the rules, but learning to fit each tile into the slots was a good challenge.  He loved it and still does (at 21 months).  Once he was able to easily manipulate the tiles where he wanted them, we started working on placing all the black tiles on one side and the red tiles on the other, alternating black and red rows, counting tiles as he places them into the slots, etc. 

This game really is a great learning tool from a very early age.  I invision being able to reinforce patterns through this too and of course eventually learn to play the game as intended.

Btw, the tiles can be used alone as an easy option for matching colors.  Just have two bowls and let them separate the colors. 

J at 16 months

Age: J started at 16 months and still “plays” Connect Four at 21 months. 

Try Again?  Yes; I did learn that this is easier played on the floor where J can sit up on his knees to see the top of the tray.  Our first attempt was in the highchair (doable but not ideal setting)

J at 20 months