Whether you stay at home with your toddler, or they spend the day at preschool or daycare, when your babies are home, they’re looking for things to do. I’ve set up many Learning Centers throughout my house to help keep them busy, occupied, and learning all the time. I’ve got a great little Library Center, I’ve got a fun Sand and Water area, a Building area, and I’ve also got a Toys and Games area. Honestly, right now my little one wants to spend most of her time in the Library, which is fine. For a few tips on how to set up your own Library Center, check out this post!
However, as she continues to grow, change, and explore, I’ve been adding some new activities to the Toys and Games Center. Here are 7 of the activities that I’ve added that I’ve been able to either make myself, or get for a steal off of Freecycle.com or at a yard sale. My daughter loves them, and I’m sure your little ones will too!
1. The Letter Board
I got this little whiteboard as a hand-me-down when I was teaching, but you can just as easily use your refrigerator, or any magnet-friendly surface. I picked up a package of magnet letters at Walmart, and just put them in a box underneath the whiteboard. My little one loves to pick off the letters, then put them back in new places. She also will experiment and find new places that the letters will stick on, such as my metal desk, our office chair, and the fridge!
Puzzles are great, and children can get a lot of mileage out of them! I got these puzzles at a garage sale for about fifty cents a piece, and they’re just right for my daughter’s developmental expertise right now. With only a handful of pieces, and large knobs to hold onto, these are ideal for younger children. However, as your child grows, you’ll want to expand your puzzle collection to reflect their changing abilities and interests. An 8 piece puzzle can be replaced by a 12 piece puzzle with smaller knobs and more challenging pieces. Puzzles are fairly easy to find used, and children have a lot of fun with them!
My abacus has seen some days, for sure. It was used when I first got it, went through four years of special education class use, and is now a favorite toy of my toddler. It looks a little bit different than a typical one, but there’s no reason you couldn’t use a regular abacus. In fact, it would probably keep your child MORE engaged than mine does! An abacus challenges your child’s fine motor skills at this young age, and then helps work on counting as they continue to grow and gain an understanding of numbers and math. They’re brightly colored and fun to move! What’s the downside, asks your toddler?
4. Stacking blocks
These are just colorful, wooden blocks that are too small to really have a place in my Building area. They’re great for lining up, making patterns, stacking, and toppling. My child likes to place them all in a long line and pretend that they are a road! I got these off of Freecycle.com, and I love that they are so easy to care for, and completely safe for a young child to play and experiment with! I’ve found them in the fridge, in the cupboard, in the bath, and I can just dry them off and stick them right back in their box.
5. Straws and Cups
This is an awesome idea that I got from a mom in our playgroup! Simple, ridiculously easy, and it will keep a busy toddler engaged for 15-30 minutes at a time. I have a plastic water bottle, but I’ve also used a hard plastic cup with a lid (you know, the ones with the hard plastic straws and the little hole?). Just cut some regular straws in half, and your child will stay busy for a LONG time working on putting those straws through the little hole in the cap! This is probably one of my daughter’s favorite activities to do!
6. Pattern Blocks
Right now, these blocks aren’t being used to make patterns. Right now, they’re being used to identify colors and make shapes. However, they do keep my little one pretty busy, as she practices sliding them together, banging them together, and putting them in and out of the box. While they’re not being used to make patterns just yet, I don’t think it will be very long before they start to be used for that!
7. Lacing Beads
This is another ridiculously easy to make activity that kids absolutely love! I found these beads on sale at Joanne Fabrics, and put them in with long, thick ribbons, and stiff cord. The cord is plastic, and very easy to slide the holes of the beads over. The ribbons have a large knot on one end, and have a stable in the other so that the beads can go on with a little more difficulty, but still fairly easily. My little one loves to slide the beads on and off, and as she becomes more sophisticated she will begin making patterns for jewelry ideas.
Well, there are my 7 activities. What do your toddlers love to keep busy with at home? Let me know!
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