“What to do with your toddler at home.”
“Rainy day ideas and activities for babies and toddlers.”
These are probably two of the most Googled phrases in a parent’s first few years. Especially if you live in an area where you’re either inside all winter, due to the cold, or like me, where you are stuck inside all summer due to excessive heat! (Hello, 120 degrees…)
We all know toddlers are busy little bodies! Their minds are developing at a rapid rate, and so are their physical skills. Being a former teacher, I get a ton of questions about activities for toddlers that help with sensory development. I also know the value of working on fine motor development from a young age. All too often, I will have kiddos in my classroom (ages 4 and 5) that could have greatly benefited from activities like these at ages 2 or 3. No one is to blame, as there isn’t a handbook, or guide on how to be a parent or how to help your child develop… that’s why I am here to share some fun, cheap, simple ideas that both you and your little one will enjoy.
*Disclaimer – NONE of these activities should be given to a toddler to play with alone. These are activities for you to do WITH your kids, and for you to help teach them these skills, so please do not let them have yarn, noodles, or endless amounts of flour all alone, as with anything, be sure to carefully supervise!
- Ice cube trays
This activity is great for little ones who are hungry (haha) and also need to work on their pincer grasp (picking up a tiny object with 2 or 3 fingers). Grace was a bit behind with this since she didn’t start eating solids until nine months old, so I created an easy activity for extra practice. I put cheerios into an ice cube tray, and held it in place so she could pick them out one by one! She loves it because she munches as she works, and I’m a happy mama because she is learning.
You can change it up with raw beans, fuzzy pom-poms, cotton balls, etc. for older kids to work on their fine motor technique, just please watch them closely!
Fishing for letters
- Bowl or tub
- Foam letters
- Pen (for adult)
This is a convenient and fun way to turn letter recognition into a physical activity! Children work on their fine motor skills by “fishing” for the foam letters in the bowl of flour! You can take this to another level for older kids by using a giant tub of flour and putting the whole alphabet in there!
All of the letters that are in the bowl should also be written down in pen on the white piece of paper. Then your child’s task is to match the letter they pull out to the letter on the sheet. Example: your child pulls an ‘F’ out of the bowl of flour, and you show them where to put it (on the white piece of paper where it says ‘F’). This activity can be as difficult or as easy as you like. Obviously, when I play this with Grace, who is only 13 months old, there is no letter recognition involved – I guide her hand to match all of the letters! However, a 2 or 3 year old may be able to easily point out “F” and say that aloud before placing it on the sheet. For 4 or 5 year olds, you can have them name the letter, and then say what sound the letter makes (/f/) or even have them think of a word that starts with ‘F’ like “fox”! The possibilities are endless! I do however, want to encourage you to have fun with this, and not treat it like a quiz.
Remember, you want your child to enjoy it, and the learning will take place naturally, through play! Let them get their hands and face messy in the flour!
- Uncooked Pasta
- Paint to color noodles beforehand is optional
This was a favorite in my kindergarten classroom. I would put on some oldies (we preferred the Beach Boys) and start making necklaces with noodles! All you need is some yarn and uncooked pasta, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a masterpiece (pun intended)!
Little ones really have to work hard on concentrating to make the yarn go through the noodle, and the finished product is SO cute. Help them tie the knot at the end and then these turn into great gifts for parents, siblings, and grandparents. I had a boyfriend in kindergarten who made me a noodle necklace out of macaroni, so this will forever be a hilarious activity to me.
A couple of helpful tips (it’s the teacher in me):
- MODEL. Modeling is actually showing your child how to do something before expecting them to do it. It’s monkey see, monkey do. Every child learns at a different pace, some need to be shown once, and others will need to be shown fifteen times. This doesn’t make any child smarter or less intelligent, it just means we all learn at our own pace, and that is one hundred percent okay!
- If you have older kiddos (who are responsible enough to care for your child’s safety) engage them in the activities! Let them teach their siblings how to do the activity and be sure to include the whole family. Remember, these can be tailored for all ages!
I sincerely hope you enjoyed reading about some exciting activities for you kids. Please visit my blog (livingincolorblog.com), and let me know your thoughts on them, and how they worked out for you!
Photos by Ashley Haxby Photography: http://ashleyhaxby.com