A Few Fun Toddler Activity Ideas

My son is obsessed with watching movies. I know toddlers are only supposed to watch a maximum of 1 hour of TV per day…but if I let him, Jack would just sit down all day and watch movie after movie…after movie after movie! He’s currently captivated by a Sesame Street movie as I type this.

I’ve been trying to do fun learning activities with him every day, to stimulate his mind and get him out of his TV coma. He’s a brilliant little boy and he LOVES doing projects and activities, so I need to take better advantage of that. He also loves flashcards and worksheets, so we’ve been doing a lot of those lately too. There are some great websites where you can print worksheets for preschoolers. One of my favorite sites is: http://www.preschoolpalace.org.

Here are some of the activities I’ve been doing with Jack, and hopefully you can try these at home with your toddlers. They are a lot of fun, and not even too messy.

Cooking

I laid down a big white sheet, folded in half to make it a little thicker, and then I set up a little cooking area for Jack. I had all sorts of his little pots & pans, plates, spoons, forks, and bowls, and a cup of water. In a cupcake pan I put all of the ingredients that he could use. Dried beans, rice, noodles, flax seeds, flour, sugar, a shaker of salt, a shaker of pepper, and any other little things I could find in my kitchen. Then I just let him go to work, however he wanted. He sat there for over an hour and was completely entertained. I didn’t interfere at all, I just let him mix up his little concoctions and his soups, and his “pancakes” and he loved every minute of it. When he decided that he was all done cooking, I just put dumped out the cupcake pan and put it in the sink along with his other dishes, and then gathered up the sheet and shook it out outside, and that’s all the clean-up that was required!

As you can see in the picture above, Jack is completely delighted that I’m letting him cook all by himself – look at that gleeful face!

I-Spy Sticker Poster

Jack loves stickers…what kid doesn’t? Therefore, he has tons of them. If I left it up to him, they would just be stuck randomly all over everything, and wasted. Since I love stickers too, I hate to see the cute ones being “wasted”…I know, I’m silly.

Another thing that Jack loves are those I-Spy books. He has two of them, and Elmo one and a Cars one. He has all of the pictures memorized and it’s not a struggle for him to locate any of the hidden pictures anymore.

I decided to combine two of his loves: Stickers and I-Spy. I got a large piece of paper and glued it onto a piece of cardboard. (Cardstock would have been ideal, but I didn’t have any on hand.) and I made a giant I-Spy board using all of Jack’s stickers. This worked out so perfectly because it was something new to him, and therefore exciting. Plus he doesn’t know where all of the hidden pictures are already, so he actually has to search for them. On the back of the poster I made a list of pictures to find. The list doesn’t cover everything, since there are so many stickers, so I can just throw in anything extra when I’m sitting with him…”Ok, now find the purple lizard!”

Miniature Playscape

Jack has a whole drawer full of little animals. He loves all of his animals, and he has to have at least 2 of each animal. One big, one small, so that he can have a “mommy and a baby.”

Until now, he just played with all of his animals on his bedroom floor, or on my bed (every night when I get in bed I discover some of Jack’s toys “hidden” under my pillow or under my blankets!) Me and my husband have a joke about finding little toys in our bed every night and we laugh when one of us lays down and feels a lump under our pillow, to reach under and find a Playmobil man or a Buzz Lightyear figurine.

When the weather is warmer, I plan on bringing his animals outside and letting him play with them in their “natural habitat” with rocks, sticks, dirt, etc. But since it’s winter, I had to bring the jungle inside. So one day me and Jack took a field trip down the street to the park and first we fed the birds some bread…then we walked around with a bag and collected small sticks, rocks, pinecones, leaves, and scraps of pine trees. When we got home I got out my hot glue gun and made a playscape on a large piece of sturdy cardboard.

I covered the cardboard with green felt and construction paper, with blue areas for a pond and a river. Then I glued on all of the nature articles in various places, to make an outdoor scene. Jack was very excited and brought his drawer of animals out and started playing right away. We still have this playscape, and Jack still plays with it almost every day.

Finger Painting and Watercolor Painting

This is an activity of course that everyone knows, but boy oh boy it’s so much fun for a toddler. And so easy for parents. Just set them on the kitchen floor with some paper, some paint, a cup of water and a paintbrush, and they are happy campers. Jack prefers to paint with a paintbrush – whether he’s using watercolors or little tubs of fingerpaint – because he doesn’t like his hands to get full of paint. He doesn’t like to be dirty. Strange little boy, I know.

Clean-up is easy of course. Just use a wet rag to wipe up any paint spots off the floor, and hang your child’s masterpiece on the fridge for all to admire!

Ocean Sensory Activity

One of Jack’s favorite movies right now is “Finding Nemo.” He watches that All.The.Time. So I thought it would be neat to let him play in the “ocean” while he was watching Nemo. I went to the dollar store and bought a few plastic ocean animals, some blue glass rocks, and a couple of those animals that “grow” in the water. When we were at the beach/park, I also picked up some shells to use in this activity.

I laid down a towel on the living room floor, put his movie on to his favorite part (the sea turtles), and then gave him the ocean! He was really into it and had a fun time exploring the ocean and getting his hands wet.

This was the base layer of the “ocean”

The turtle and crab both were the animals that “grow” when wet

Blue Volcano

When all else fails, what toddler wouldn’t want to see a volcano erupting? This is the classic baking-soda-and-vinegar volcano, but to make it more fun, add some food coloring! We used an old Starbucks Mocha bottle, filled the bottom with baking soda, added a couple drops of blue food coloring, and then poured in the vinegar and watched the action. Of course after I did it once, Jack wanted to do it again, and he wanted to pour the vinegar in!

Scratch Paper

Scratch paper is a magical thing for a toddler. Where does the color from from when you’re just scratching the paper with a stick? (And what little boy doesn’t like playing with sticks?) What’s nice for Mommy is that you can now get a couple of sheets of Scratch Paper at the dollar store!

Crayon Coloring on a Warm Plate

One last idea for today is coloring on a warm plate with crayons. I just went to the dollar store and got a plain white ceramic plate for a buck. course, only put the plate in the microwave for about a minute and a half, so it’s not too hot…just warm. Then give your child some crayons and let him feel how neatly the wax glides on the plate. Then you can wash the plate and let him color again another day!

I hope that this gives you a few good ideas to use with your children at home, and I will be posting more ideas soon!

Nikki

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March 2, 2012. Jack.

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