Last Christmas when I brought out our decorations, I found a set of Russian nesting dolls (don’t ask me why they were mixed in our Christmas decor). J loved them (age 20 months). That same year his grandma got him a cute set of nesting animals in his stocking that he’s played with all that year.
To me, nesting dolls are a step up from the nesting cups all pretoddlers love to play with. Nesting dolls are a little more advanced since they have to open and close each one. They provide great practice with size recognition, help you work on size comparison like smallest/largest, smaller/larger, large, medium, small,…
At 33 months they are still within his developmental level and keep his attention well. Maybe this is a “toy” you have around your home and have overlooked it just like I did.
Iphone photo from plane trip
This is an activity J has done both at home and on airplanes. I found a big bag of colorful buttons, in different sizes. Set out some string and he was focused threading them for 30 minutes at least. This is a good fine motor skill activity. J is a very organized little boy so he typically wants to sort the buttons by color, matching each with the corresponding color string…. which meant mom had to track down string to match each button :)
We’ve also tried stringing the buttons by size but this hasn’t been J’s favorite activity. He’d much rather sort colors. It’s still a great practice activity to try. I’ll bring it out again after awhile. If you do plan on sorting by size, I would start with a just a few buttons and as your little one excels increase the number of buttons to sort and/or decrease the difference in sizes.
Traveling: We started using this activity on planes when J was old enough to keep track of the buttons. We keep them in a ziploc and he takes out one at a time. I only bring the larger buttons with us and he strings them on pipe cleaners instead of string. I like multiple uses for travel toys and pipe cleaners offer lots of other uses.
Lesson learned: Using pipe cleaners to thread is much easier than using string. This makes activities like this (or stringing beads, stringing sponges ) possible for younger ones. You can bend down the sharp ends of the pipe cleaners.
Age attempted: 27 months
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
This isn’t flashy and I’m even a bit embarassed to show this activity. BUT it’s a good way to incorporate some extra practice into your day. No need to get extravagant to teach a toddler! You really can’t get any easier than this and your little one will love it.
We had some leftover Cheez-it from a Sunday school activity, so I brought it home and put it to good use. I figured it doesn’t provide much nutritional value so I might as well get some education value out of it!
We’ve used it for counting practice. I called out a number and he had to find the cracker with that many dots to eat.
We’ve used it for letter practice. I set up a column of upper case letters and a column of lower case letters and he matched them together. I then called out a letter sound and he got to eat that letter.
You could easily introduce numbers or letters this way or of course practice shapes and size too.
Age attempted: 2 years; can certainly be done earlier
Posted in Age Range, Counting, Early Preschool (3-4 years), Early Toddler (18-24 months), Letters, Math, Reading and Writing, Shapes, Size, Subject, Toddler (2-3 years)
Tagged Letters, Numbers, Shapes, Size
My husband has decided that J should own every Disney car that is made. I think he’s addicted (though I can think of worse addictions!). I started saving the packing that each car comes in, figuring I could find something to do with the cardboard printouts of Lighting McQueen, Sheriff, Mater,…. I cut out the pictures and began yet another stack on my “to be completed” desk. Each package had 2 pictures of the same car, one small and one much larger.
Before our last plane trip, I grabbed them to bring with us. I had literally done nothing other than cut the pictures out. But that was enough for J. He was thrilled when I brought out the pics. First he named each car and then we described each car together. I’ve always described things out loud with J, even when he was a little baby and he’s really getting good at doing the same by himself. I remember this being a skill taught in elementary school when I was little (of course they taught it more advanced that what J is doing!), so I guess this is a helpful skill in life! We also matched the small cars to the large ones and then made a pile of small cars and a separate pile of large cars.
He then pretended to drive them around the seatback tray.
So it doesn’t take much to entertain and teach a little at the same time! Because J had never seen them before, they kept him busy for quite a while on the plane. I will say that this would not have been an appropriate plane activity until maybe 20 months or so. Before that, the many pieces would’ve presented a problem. He would’ve dropped them everywhere and I’m sure I would’ve ended up quite frustrated. TIP: The size and number of pieces a toy/activity has is definitely something to consider!
I’m sure the cardboard cars will be worked into another “official” activit later, but for now this is working just fine!
Age attempted: 25 months
Other options: If it’s not cars, maybe it’s trains or dolls, animals or food, just start saving the packaging that your little ones favorite toys come in. There’s bound to be lots of creative ways to put them to good use.
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
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
This is one of the matching activities I made for J. He loves fish right now, so this particular board quickly attracts his attention.
These pictures were left over from an activity J did at church, but you could make your own with clip art. I used adhesive magnets on the back of the board as well as on each individual card so that the pieces stay in place. I also laminated (using contact paper) each card for durability.
I did originally make another board that had double the squares to match but it proved too difficult for him. He lost interest very quickly because there were simply too many fish to search through. It wasn’t magnetic either so he kept accidentally moving the cards around the board. This second board worked out much better. I really think it’s the perfect level for him right now. He has to be mindful of the color, number and type of fish to match each card correctly. There are just enough squares to keep him busy but not frustrate him. I will have to save my original board for when he’s a bit older.
Age attempted: 22 months
Teachable moments: count the fish together in search for the perfect match, talk about the different colors, point out the size of the fish (small, medium, large)
Try Again? Yes; as he gets older I can increase the number of squares to match; I can also add extra cards that won’t actually match the board so that he will learn to filter the unnecessary data and focus only on what is needed to complete the task.
** stay tuned for other activities I’ve created with these adorable fish!
This is the other board I made that will have to wait until he's a little older.
Posted in Age Range, Colors, Counting, Early Toddler (18-24 months), Homemade Games, Math, Size, Toddler (2-3 years)
Tagged Colors, Counting, Homemade Games, matching, Size
I always have J help me with the household chores. I want to encourage him that we ALL take care of the things given to us; it’s a team effort. So he helps with anything he is capable at that particular age. Yeah, things may take a little longer and might not be done exactly right, but it’s definitely worth it.
Putting away the clean dishes is one way he helps. He currently helps sort the utencils back in the drawer, forks with forks, spoons with spoons (I remove the knives of course). Then I place his sippy cups within his reach and he matches the correct size and color lid to each one so I can put them in the cabinet. At first he didn’t always match them correctly but not he’s a pro. It’s great practice especially since we have many different types of cups, all different colors and sizes. He really loves this and is disappointed if he notices I do it without his help.
Age attempted: We started this sometime around 16 months; he still does this now at 22 months
Try Again? Yes; as he gets older I set out more cups and lids at a time to increase the difficulty
J has always loved rainbows. So of course, I’m going to capitalize on this interest to teach all that I can. Using rainbows to teach colors is of course great. We have rainbows drawn outside on our driveway every week during the summer. Today it finally clicked that I could use rainbows to teach size, similar to the colorful stacking rings J has had since infancy.
I cut each band of the rainbow out of construction paper and had J glue them in the correct order (largest to smallest).
Afterwards, I did think this could be a good airplane activity. I would precut foam/felt instead of construction paper and let J create on the seatback tray. (Foam/felt creations work well on planes and they take up little space and weight in your carryon!).
This would also be a good craft after discussing the story of Noah, emphasizing that the God still places rainbows in the sky to remind us that He always keeps his promises.
Age attempted? 21 months
Try again? probably, at least until he was competant enough in sorting that the activity was to easy for him; You could add more bands to the rainbow to increase the difficulty as they get older