Here is the final installment of ideas and activities for your toddler. This will conclude the list. (we're to 100! Woo hoo!) Don't forget to visit Beth's original list of 50 Mood Changers for Toddler Days, found on her wonderful blog, Write, Mama, Write. (She's actually on a little break right now while she remodels a house, but check back with her because she's just super.)
41. Mystery Bag or box- For this activity you need an empty bag (fabric bags work best) or box with a hole cut into the side. The idea is that a child will reach in and feel an object without seeing it. There are several ways to play: you can put in an object and see if child can guess what it is OR put in several matching objects, have child pull one out and then go back in and try to feel for the match (can do with fabric swatches too in a shoebox) note: with younger toddlers, show them the objects as you put them into the bag and only use a few. With older kids, put in familiar objects but don’t show them prior. You could also collect some objects and make matching photo cards. Show your child a card and see if they can reach in and pull out the object without looking.
92. Model pretend play- Sometimes we expect children to play without realizing that having your toy bear talk to your toy doll is actually a rather strange idea. Once you model it, they'll take the idea and zoom off (if they are ready developmentally) but the trick is planting the idea. The important thing about this activity is that the adult thinks out loud. For example, you might say, "I want to make a zoo so I need to build some cages for the animals. Hmmm... I think I'll use some of these low blocks for that. Hey, this block would make a good tall cage- that one can be for the giraffe!" Also, draw your child in with questions, "What else do we see at the zoo? Oh, a restaurant! Good idea! What could we use to build that? Yes, that shoebox will work great. Hey! Let's get some little food out of the dollhouse to use in our zoo restaurant!" Do you see what I mean? Research actually shows that this kind of adult modeling can enhance creativity in children's play. I'm not saying that you need to do this every day. (Not should you!) Rather, try doing it occassionally to stretch your child's creativity and give them new ideas. Some of the fun things to model for them:
- Playing house, cooking in their pretend kitchen, playing with the dolls in the dollhouse, "feeding" the stuffed animals and babies, having their toys "talk" to each other, mixing and mingling toy sets (i.e. the dollhouse family inviting the Polly Pocket gals to tea),
93. Homemade sound bingo- Discovery Toys sells a Bingo game that comes with a CD full of sounds. Kids match the sounds they hear to the photos on the cards. It occurred to me that you don't have to buy the game to play this with your toddler. Draw a tic-tac-toe type of board on a sheet of white paper and draw or cut and paste photos of the following:
cow, rooster, sheep, snake, fire engine, car, clock, baby crying, singer, wind, a person sneezing, a person yawning, a person coughing, a person laughing, (Or any other ideas you think of. You could do lots of different animals.) Then give your toddler some small squares of cardstock to cover the pictures and start making the sounds! That's right, Mom takes the place of the CD player. With toddlers, it works best to keep playing until they cover the board.
94. Felt board on the wall- When we went on a road trip last summer, we stopped at the Children's Museum in Richmond, VA. It was FABULOUS. If you can ever take your kids there, please do. In the toddler room they had a big felt board hanging on a wall. Sister was mesmerized (she wasn't yet three at the time) and she wanted to stay at that board the whole time we were there, taking the little felt shapes and people on and off again. We ended up buying a lap felt board for the rest of our trip which entertained her for hours. Now we have one hanging on her wall, and she and brother play with it all the time. We keep the little flannel characters in a basket nearby. (Do a google search for flannel board or felt board and you'll find lots of sources- Ebay is a good source too.) You can also create homemade shapes, letters, and people if you want to get crafty, and if you don't want to hang a flannelboard on the wall, you can always just make a large one that can be put away. An easy and inexpensive solution would be to cover a piece of foam core with a yard or two of felt and prop it up somewhere when your kids want to play. I like a light blue background color because it works as sky or water (and doesn't show as much dirt as white.)
95. Get out fresh magnets for the fridge - As with everything, too much is too much. I've learned to store my magnets in sets in small boxes or bags and let them take our one or two at a time. When the fridge is too cluttered with magnets, they don't play well with them or they all just end up on the floor or strewn around the house. I also don't store and papers or photos on the bottom half of the fridge because it is a play area. (Note- if you have one of those annoying fridges that aren't magnetic (I used to!), just get out a few cookie sheets and let them play on those. I LOVE this idea from Family Fun and it's on my to-do list!
96. Buy a Bounce House- OK. I know. They're expensive. But, people, listen to me! There are some things that are worth the money. For example, it is often hard to spend a lot of money for a nice sofa or mattress, but when you figure out how much you use it and how much it would cost per day over the years, it's worth it! Same goes for the bounce house/ jump castle. For over a year I watched the neighbor kids jumping in their Little Tikes bounce house EVERY DAY on the back porch. I wanted one for my kids but the price (almost $200 for a nice-sized one) was off-putting. I finally broke down and bought one for Brother's birthday party (instead of spending that much to have it at Gymboree.) I can already tell that the $169.00 I spent on that jump house is going to be WELL worth it. The kids play in it constantly. (The key is to have it somewhere accessible, like the corner of a playroom, rather than storing it in the back of a closet.) It saves rainy days, cold days, hot days, days when we have too much energy in the late afternoon, etc. I highly recommend this as a sanity-saving toy. Note: You do need to keep an eye on them while they're playing in a jump house. I've prevented MANY near-injuries just by being vigilant about monitoring what they're doing in there. PS- It's WAY overpriced on Amazon!!
97. Household hunt- make photo cards of basic household objects. Give each kid one card at a time and have them go find that item and bring it back to you (or put into a basket.) ideas: pot, doll, stuffed friend, toy car, sock, diaper, book, etc. (Older kids could do this as a race- give each kid a stack of cards, a bag, and see who can finish the fastest. Then time them to see how fast they can put their stuff back. If you keep time, you can make time the enemy and see if they can do it again and beat their time.)
98. Chugga Chugga Choo Choo- This is one of Brother's favorite books. It is the story of a little toy train that chugs through a boy's room. (He has created a very imaginative track using his toys.) It has inspired us to create our own fun "track" out of toys that winds through the den and take Brother's Thomas trains for a little spin. This is an activity I still have to help with (a lot) but I know I am planting a seed of creativity: one day Brother will create these imaginative tracks all on his own!
99. Happy Toilet Paper Trails...- I saw this one on the Family Fun website. You take a roll of toilet paper and wind it all through the house- around table legs, up stairs, into closets and out again, etc. and have your toddler follow it from beginning to end. It's always fun to have a little treat at the end, like a cookie or a sheet of stickers. Then, make it a game to go backwards and collect all the toilet paper. Is it wasteful? Not if you use it the next day to make Clean Mud! (See # 100 of this post.)
100. Clean Mud - Take a large, shallow pan or a big bowl (a dishpan is a nice size) and into it grate one bar of white Ivory soap. Let your toddler tear a roll of toilet paper into small bits (as small as possible- you might want to go behind him and tear up any big pieces) and add it into the pan. Then pour in warm water (warm so the soap can dissolve) and mix until you get a nice fluffy texture. It should feel like thick Cool Whip. Too much water makes it too soupy. This is a fun one to play with, and it smells great!
Bonus: Costume jewelry- When I was a little girl, one of my favorite things to do was go through my grandmother's "junk jewelry." (This was her costume stuff that is actually fairly collectible today.) She gave it to me in lovely old jewelry case with lots of compartments and drawers, and I've added a few of my own "junky" pieces to it. My kids love to sort through it all, identifying each item, asking me to recall the origin of each item. Beyond the obvious appeal of going through and handling each piece, a cache of jewelry has so many possiblities for creative play. It can be a pirate's treasure, a source for the dress-up closet, a mermaid's secret box, etc. Just one IMPORTANT NOTE: I don't let them play with the jewelry box out of my sight. (Not until they're much older, at least.) I read an article about a little girl who swallowed a cheap metal charm from one of those freebie necklaces that come with toys and she died of lead poisioning within a week. Not knowing what metals are in old jewelry, I do two things: 1) I don't let them play with it unless I'm paying attention to them and 2) I took out all the items that were made only of metal and kept the plastic, beaded, and wooden pieces. However, you still have to be careful about not letting them mouth things because there are still little metal clamps, jump rings, etc. Not to mention that almost all jewelry is a choking hazard. Still, if you're there with them, they love to sort through the jewelry, especially if they're feeling under the weather. It's a nice sick-day activity. Just please WATCH them!!
So, there you have it. 50 more ideas. Put them with Beth's and it's 100. Add in the ideas you find in Blogland and it's even more! I hope it helps you have some fun times with your kiddos!
Whew! I'm pooped- that was a lot of blogging!
I'm going on a little beach trip this week so I'll be gone until Friday. Have a great week everyone!!