Sunday, August 23, 2009

Curious Toddlers - Homemade Activities

From the time they open their eyes in the morning until that last yawn of the day, toddlers are on a mission to explore. This leads to their reputation for “getting into things”.

Four ideas to keep them busy:

1. Twist On, Twist Off

Build a collection of different types of containers with screw-on tops like the ones below:

Not pictured, but perfect for little hands are empty plastic spice containers.

With lids secured loosely, let your child explore it a bit and then show her how to use her hand to twist it off. Start with two different types and gradually add more over time. Then add toys or balls to the closed containers to add interest (ping pong balls pictured work well in spice jars, but are still considered a choking hazard for young children. Please do not leave child unattended or only use balls at least 2” in diameter).

Keep your bottle collection in a small zippered duffle-type bag or men’s toiletry bag, and you’ve given your child another fine motor task to master.

2. Hinged Containers

Toddlers love to open and close hinged containers and fill and dump with small toys.

Check Grandma’s house for older tin versions of Bandaid containers (last year Walmart had special anniversary versions for sale,) or maybe you have some novelty types like those below. Bandaid brand also has a new plastic tough-type container.

Baby wipe containers that open and shut in a hinged fashion are also fun. For fine motor finger skills, try adding wash cloths for your child to pull out and stuff back in.

Note: Look for signs that your child is ready for these types of activities. If he is engaged and excited, it's the right level. If he finds any of it frustrating or loses interest, try again in another week. As you know, week to week children grow and develop by leaps and bounds.

3. Indoor “Sand” Box

You’ll Need:

-Plastic Measuring Cups and Spoons

-Plastic Funnel (optional)

-Large plastic storage container (at least 18”L x 12”W x 5”H)

-Your choice of filler
(this will depend on your child’s age and whether he/she still puts things in his mouth):

---Dried Rice

(safe if ingested but do not use outdoors as rice is not safe when eaten by birds)

---Dried Beans

(best for older toddlers/preschoolers as creative little ones might try to stuff one where it doesn’t belong – nose or ears)

---Dried Pasta (small shapes)

---Bird Seed

(this is a terrific green option as once it has outlived it’s play life, it can be used to feed the birds. If used outside, bird seed will not harm any wildlife if it falls to the ground – just remember that you might get a few plant sprouts wherever it drops on the soil).

4. Traditional Toys

If you haven’t introduced these yet, it’s a perfect time for:

-Wooden Puzzles with Pegged Handles

-Simple Shape Sorters (start with only circles and squares to lessen frustration)

-Stacking Cups

-Blocks of Any Type

(create your own stackables using empty cereal/formula canisters or boxes)

Easy Homemade Blocks

Photo Credit: Adrian Lee, Canada
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  1. These are great ideas for little ones. I will have to remember these for when I become a grandmother.(my boys are all just about grown up)See you on MBC!

  2. The baby wipes container example just made me laugh!! We have 4 baby wipes containers in my house - 1 w/ real wipes that I use; 1 w/ my handmade cloth wipes that I use when I use cloth diapers; 1 w/ washclothes for my 2 year old daughter; and 1 more (b/c she needs 2 also - haha!) that is empty that she uses to store whatever she wants. It cracks me up sometimes when I look at the shelf w/ 4 boxes : )

  3. Oh my goodness, I am so happy you found me at MBC! You have so many great tips! I am a first-time mom and I love any advice and helpful tips! I'm so excited to follow you! These ideas were great! Thanks!

  4. Great ideas! I have a toddler and she wants to play with everything except her toys, Lol. Looking forward to reading your blogs regularly!

  5. Ha! My little one figured out long ago that the most fun things are in the kitchen. She loves to play with spice containers and tupperware. When I'm cooking or otherwise occupied in the kitchen, I often just give her some of these 'toys'. She likes nesting and stacking them. She stays amused! :)

  6. Thanks for the visit and follow on our site! You have some fabulous ideas and tips on here :o)

  7. It's funny how things around the house can sometimes be more fun than actual toys! Following you from MBC...

  8. These are wonderful ideas - and so practical, too! My oldest is at that stage where around-the-house objects are more fun to play with than actual toys, so I'll definitely try some of these ideas out to keep him busy! =)

  9. Thank you for the wonderful ideas. I love them because I have most of these things on hand.

  10. I love your ideas. Especially the baby wipes container and the washclothes. My 1 year old is always wanting to pull out baby wipes. Good luck on finishing up your early childhood degree. I taught K-1 before I stayed at home with my own and loved it! Plan to go back someday. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  11. What great ideas--and great ways to save money! It just goes to show that you don't need all the bells and whistles of the latest toys to keep toddlers occupied!

    All the best,

  12. Great ideas! Nice blog!

    I'm following from MBC's Under 100. Please come by and read! Thanks!