13 Free play ideas for Toddlers

Toddlers learn best through play.

The activities below will keep your toddler busy as well as teach them vital skills.

I’ve personally used each idea either in a class or with my own kids.

  • Ribbons in a bottle

Take an empty bottle with a wide lid . Stuff with ribbon. Help your child to push the ribbon in and pull it out.

  • Pom pom play
  • For this you need a bowl of pom Poms and some tweezers. Use the tweezers to transfer the pom Poms into and out of the bowl.

    • Colander pipe cleaners

    Take several coloured pipe cleaners and a colander. Turn the colander upside down and have your toddler stick the pipe cleaners in using the colander like a peg board.

    • Corn kernel sensory box

    This is great for if you have a child learning about the farm or food theme. Place popcorn into a shallow box. Insert farm animals, farmer and a tractor into the kernels covering them.

    Give your child spoons, a funnel, an empty container and a jug to play with.

    Let them discover the animals and scoop out the kernels. Teach them to pour the kernels into the container and how they pass through the funnel.

    • Cardboard box

    This is self explanatory, give your child a box and let their imaginations go wild.

    • Rip tissue paper

    This is fantastic for fine motor skills. You can start with soft papers like serviettes, tissue paper and work up to white paper, old magazines and wrapping paper.

    • Fabric scraps

    Give your child a box of fabric scraps.

    On a huge piece of paper trace around their body. Let them glue on the fabric scraps to make clothing.

    • Jars and lids

    Take several jars with lids. Unscrew all the lids. Muddle them up and have your child match the right lid to the container and screw it on.

  • Pots and pans orchestra
  • Hold your ears with this one. Give the kids some old pots and wooden spoons let them make music.

    • Transfer water

    This is especially fun in the bathroom but a bowl of water outside will also work.

    Fill a container and have your child transfer water from it to another container.

    You can use a variety of different items like spoons, cups, jugs, buckets, ect.

    • Stack cups

    Let your child stack plastic cups or Tupperware in your kitchen the same way they stack blocks.

    • Toothpicks and meat trays

    Draw a simple picture on a meat tray and let your toddler prick all around it to make the pattern.

    Most importantly have fun and always stop an activity if your toddler has lost interest.

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    Why your toddler should be colouring in

    We recently received two large colouring sheets from www.blubirdcreations.co.za

    Beautiful large simple images printed to a large sheet of white paper.

    There were two separate designs. A stunning toddler sheet full of all things kids love and a ocean sheet full of under the sea creatures.

    Bear was delighted the minute we opened the carton tube containing his suprise and dragged us all in to colour with him.

    So many uses for the colouring sheets.

    I love these sheets. They are fantastic to keep the kids busy. Would accomadate several children in a classroom setting and best of all could be used as kiddy table cloths at both birthday parties or restaurants.

    We used one , once it was coloured, to cover a gift to a friend from bear and you could even use them to cover school books or files.

    But why is colouring important?

    Today, especially with the advanced technology our children are exposed to , it’s important to encourage your toddler to colour in.

    Here are six learning benefits of colouring in activities.

    1. Fine Motor Development:

    Colouring in helps your child to develop good finger grip. It provides an opportunity to practice holding a pencil the correct way and aids in developing those fine motor muscles in their hands, fingers, and wrist.

    2. Concentration:

    The length of a child’s concentration develops and improves over time. Colouring in requires a good concentration and by focusing on one task , for example colouring the tree green, can help a child develop his or her overall concentration levels.

    3. Colour Recognition:

    Colouring in activities encourages colour awareness. Using different colours gives a child an opportunity to explore different colour combinations and lets them see how they can change the appearance of the picture by using these colours.

    4. Hand & Eye Coordination:

    Colouring in aids in the development of hand & eye coordination as your child learns to colour within the lines. When children first start colouring they will have a tough time keeping within the lines but as they progress their skill increases.

    5. Sense of Pride and Achievement:

    Children should be given every opportunity to gain self-confidence and a sense of self-worth. If they can create something that they are proud of, this will help in the positive development of their personality.

    Children should be given every opportunity to gain self-confidence and a sense of self-worth. If they can create something that they are proud of, this will help in the positive development of their personality.

    Children should be given every opportunity to gain self-confidence and a sense of self-worth. If they can create something that they are proud of, this will help in the positive development of their personality.

    6. Creativity:


    Colouring in stimulates creative thinking. Children learn to plan as they decide the colours they need in their picture and in what order they are going to colour things in. As their confidence grows, they are more likely to take risks and experiment with colour, patterns, and special effects with pencil or marker strokes.

    15 fun Toddler Activities to do this weekend

    As an educator I enjoy easy activities that not only keep kids busy but allow them to learn through play.

    Here are 15 fun easy activities to keep your toddler ( and you) busy this weekend.

    1.Cut up pipe cleaners – collect a variety of coloured pipe cleaners and let your child practice their cutting skills by cutting the pipe cleaners into smaller pieces.

    2.Balloon badminton – make 2 bats by taping a carton tube to a paper plate. Alternatively You can cut a pool noodles and each use a piece or use fly swatter. Take turns using a balloon as the ball to hit.

    3.Bubbles wrap runway – this is very cute and perfect for little toddlers. Place a long strip of bubble wrap on the ground. Have your child stand like an aeroplane , arms outstretched and run down the runway to take off and fly.

    4.Golf tees into Styrofoam – for this you need a few golf tees and some Styrofoam. Give your child a wooden hammer and let him hammer each tee into the Styrofoam.

    5.Highways – make roads from tape on the ground and let your toddler ride their cars on the roads.

    6.Treasure hunt – hide a few items in a room or outside. Draw the items into a piece of paper and help your child to find each one. I like a nature hunt where each child has to find a few items to collect outside.

    7.Cereal necklaces – using a cereal that looks like hoops make a necklace by stringing tgem onto a piece of string or ribbon.

    8.Thread cereal onto a spaghetti stick – place a piece of raw spaghetti into a piece of playdough. Thread cereal with hoops onto the spaghetti.

    9.Newspaper balls – roll newspaper up into a ball and throw, kick and roll the balls with your toddler.

    10.Roll down a hill- I’m sure you all remember the fun of rolling downhill and in the grass. Teach your toddler to roll downhill.

    11.Balance beam- a balance beam can be made from a piece of plank or a few bricks placed together . Allow your child to hold your hand until they are confident enough to balance by themselves.

    12.Block stack – use blocks or plastic containers to stack into tall towers and let your toddlers knock it over.

    13.Lacinging cards – cut some easy shapes from card boxes. Old cereal boxes work best. Punch all around and let your child use a shoe lace to thread around.

    14.Cook with mud- who didn’t love cooking with mud as a child? Give them some old kitchen utensils and make a small mud patch outside. This is great for creativity.

    15.Peg play-allow your child to peg the clothing pegs on and off a paper plate, shoebox or string tied between two chair legs.

    Bears first toys & fun ideas to stimulate your baby at home

    These were Little bears first toys.

    Mammas you do not need expensive items to entertain baby.

    The wooden bunnies were made by my friend Karolien at www.momsdirectory.co.za and I painted them using nail polish . I used them to help him focus and do tracking with his eyes.

    The plastic containers, I would put beans, ect in to make different sounds. I shook these for him to hear.

    We placed all the items into the gift bag as storage and pointed out the bright items on the bag to bear as we spoke during the day.

    The washing machine I made from an old mug box by cutting a hole in the centre and drawing on the details. I would place various tactile materials inside for him to pull out.

    The finger puppet fitted over bears hand and I would place it on his hand or foot for body awareness and to get him to grasp at it and cross the midline.

    Those first 1000 days are the most important and one of my peeves at having worked in several daycares, is how the school owners feel babies do not need as much stimulation as older children .

    Today I’m sharing just a few of the items bear and i did together in his early months …

    Shaving cream

    This is one of my all time favourite go to sensory activities and even my age 4/5 year old class enjoyed writing and playing in the shaving cream.

    You can colour the shaving cream with a dash of food colouring .

    Best of all if you spray into a cupcake tray , put a different colour into each cup, mix and leave in the fridge till bath time you have awesome bath paints. My older bears loved these.

    Little bears reaction to the shaving cream was delightful. He was 4 months old here and loved mooooshing the cream over the tray.

    And …no mess!

    Just dump in bath 😛

    For bath fun I love the www.acornkids.co.za bath foam which is the same as coloured shaving cream. Too much fun in a can.

    Serviettes

    Items as simple as a serviettes can keep babies entertained and are great for tactile discovery.

    Just watch how quick those little hands can get to the mouth …

    Bubble wrap

    Another one of my favourites.

    Little bear squished it in his chubby fingers, walked on it, rolled on it, crawled on it and I sat him in it, in his pool.

    Obviously never leave baby alone with plastic of any kind. And watch items near babies mouth.

    Crawling tunnels

    One of our favourite items when little bear was crawling was his www.melissaanddoug.com tunnel.

    When my other bears were babies my budget didn’t allow for such fancy items and we made tunnels from empty boxes, chairs lined up and under beds.

    Crawling obstacles were placed within reach to encourage movement and develop those gross motor skills.

    Baking

    Baking is one of the activities little bear and I enjoy together.

    You can bake from young.

    Even at just a few months he enjoyed tasting the dough, squishing it in his fingers and slamming rollers and cutters onto the dough.

    As he’s gotten older he now helps add ingreadience to a bowl, place decorations on and has more control over the roller and cutters.

    How cute is his chef hat from Theresa at www.magoo.co.za ?

    Sand

    Oh how much fun was Little bears first sandy day at the beach?

    Sand is a wonderful medium to explore.

    As I was stuck inside with a broken leg for most of bears early months we used kinetic sand from www.acornkids.co.za on a tray to play with often.

    Garden sand is his favourite and he loves the feel of squishy mud between his fingers as he drags his bulldozers through it.

    We’ve tried to build sand castles on the beach but up until now my OCD builds the castle and bears Toddler curiosity crushes it 😂

    Did you know preschools steralise their sandpit sand with coarse salt. It keeps it free of worms and fleas.

    If you have pets always keep your sandpit covered.

    Water

    Water play can be just as exciting to explore as sand and again you don’t need any expensive water tables.

    A large container with a bit of water, a small blow up pool or a plastic shell will do.

    You could even put baby in the bath.

    Boats, bath toys and kitchen odds make the best experimenting tools.

    You can colour the water with a drop of food colouring or use www.acornkids.co.za angel powder.

    A bit of bubble bath, shower gel or shampoo makes amazing bubbles.

    Alternatively if your toddler is older you can give them a hand whisk and get them beating that water to make the bubbles …

    Ball pitt

    A ball pit can be tremendous fun at any age .

    We turned a mini blow up pool into bears first ball pit.

    He would sit and play like that for a few minutes at a time and soon learnt to throw them out .

    Bubbles

    Who doesn’t love bubbles?

    I collected some of Kikis bath bubbles and placed them in a container for little bear to explore. He enjoyed feeling the bubbles on his hands and feet.

    So much fun in a box.

    Balloon play

    This is still one of little bears favourites.

    I started by tying a balloon to his car chair or pram for him to watch.

    As he began to sit and crawl I would blow up several and place them all around him to bop at and try catch.

    Now that he is older we can throw them to him and he kicks them.

    Bring nature inside

    As I mentioned I was stuck with a heavy cast and moonboot for most of little bears early months and so i would often get one of my older bears to find me leaves, flowers, bark, stones, shells and other pieces of nature for bear to explore.

    Sensory pools

    These really can be made with any container large enough for baby to sit in.

    I filled Little bears blow up pool with a variety of different items and hid toys and small things in between for him to discover.

    This one I used packaging pellets but you can use :

    Rice
    Beans

    Foam
    Cut up pool noodles
    Sponges
    Cooked noodles
    Dry noodles
    Leaves

    Paint

    I introduced Little bear to paint at a very young age and it’s one of his go to activities.

    It’s possible to let your child paint from 4/5 month old with help. You guide their hand and then watch as they learn to swipe the paper themselves.

    If you are worried about mess mix a little dish liquid into your finger or poster paints , it helps it wash out faster.

    Or you can make your own paint by mixing either flour or cornflour with a drop of colour and a small bit of Water till you have the consistency you need.

    He has his own style and will paint anything in front of him.

    This box was from his www.buddingminds.co.za kit and he had not finished painting yet so the box was his next project 😂🤣

    Discovery boxes

    I feature my discovery boxes often because I feel it’s important to place a child in an environment that fosters learning and discovery.

    The box is an old train box but you could use a tray, shoe box, cupcake tray or printers tray.

    Chose a theme

    For this box we used a baking theme

    Fill the box with items related to that theme and step back allowing your child to explore and discover each item for as long or short a period as they like.

    This was my saving grace over the December holidays and kept bear busy enough for me to get some work done.

    And always end with lots of mamma hugs and kisses

    Coding the musical – teaching girls to code through play.

    “Coding, the Musical” is a completely free interactive musical that teaches basic coding concepts to kids aged 4 to 8, designed specifically for girls!

    Children are introduced to coding by creating their own characters and building their own musical story worlds.

    The purpose of “Coding, the Musical” is to get girls engaging with computer science in a fun, playful and extremely creative environment so that they fall in love with coding and want to learn more!

    • 20 beautifully animated interactive stories,
    • 60 songs,
    • 40 games and
    • 5 fundamental coding concepts

    lots of learning, lots of fun!

    Coding is a great way to develop logic and problem solving skills in children. But it has more than just cognitive benefits, it’s also socially important that girls learn to code.

    Coding is the language of the 21st century and it is extremely important that both genders have a voice.

    As technology develops, we need to make sure that girls are a part of what is becoming an increasingly powerful political and economic force.

    Download Free

    Unfortunately this app is only available for Apple users.

    For more information view this short preview video: https://www.youtube.com/watchv=V3Dzahqo5Us

    “Coding, the Musical” breaks coding concepts down to their essential logic so that young kids can understand, and enjoy them.

    25 rules for Moms with daughters

    (Author anon)

    1. Paint her nails. Then let her scratch it off and dirty them up. Teach her to care about her appearance, and then quickly remind her that living and having fun is most important.

    2. Let her put on your makeup, even if it means bright-red-smudged lips and streaked-blue eyes. Let her experiment in her attempts to be like you…then let her be herself.

    3. Let her be wild. She may want to stay home and read books on the couch, or she may want to hop on the back of a motorcycle-gasp. She may be a homebody or a traveler. She may fall in love with the wrong boy, or meet mr. right at age 5. Try to remember that you were her age once. Everyone makes mistakes, let her make her own.

    4. Be present. Be there for her at her Kindergarten performances, her dance recitals, her soccer games…her everyday-little-moments. When she looks through the crowds of people, she will be looking for your smile and pride. Show it to her as often as possible.

    5. Encourage her to try on your shoes and play dress-up. If she would rather wear her brother’s superman cape with high heals, allow it. If she wants to wear a tutu or dinosaur costume to the grocery store, why stop her? She needs to decide who she is and be confident in her decision.

    6. Teach her to be independent. Show her by example that woman can be strong. Find and follow your own passions. Search for outlets of expression and enjoyment for yourself- not just your husband or children. Define yourself by your own attributes, not by what others expect you to be. Know who you are as a person, and help your daughter find out who she is.

    7. Pick flowers with her. Put them in her hair. There is nothing more beautiful than a girl and a flower.

    8. Let her get messy. Get messy with her, no matter how much it makes you cringe inside. Splash in the puddles, throw snowballs, make mud pies, finger paint the walls: just let it happen. The most wonderful of memories are often the messy ones.

    9. Give her good role models- you being one of them. Introduce her to successful woman- friends, co-workers, doctors, astronauts, or authors. Read to her about influential woman- Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Marie Curie. Read her the words of inspirational woman- Jane Austen, Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson. She should know that anything is possible.

    10. Show her affection. Daughters will mimic the compassion of their mother. “I love yous” and Eskimo kisses go a long way.

    11. Hold her hand. Whether she is 3 years-old in the parking lot or sixteen years old in the mall, hold on to her always- this will teach her to be confident in herself and proud of her family.

    12. Believe in her. It is the moments that she does not believe in herself that she will need you to believe enough for both of you. Whether it is a spelling test in the first grade, a big game or recital, a first date, or the first day of college…remind her of the independent and capable woman you have taught her to be.

    13. Tell her how beautiful she is. Whether it is her first day of Kindergarten, immediately after a soccer game where she is grass-stained and sweaty, or her wedding day. She needs your reminders. She needs your pride. She needs your reassurance. She is only human.

    14. Love her father. Teach her to love a good man, like him. One who lets her be herself…she is after all wonderful.

    15. Make forts with boxes and blankets. Help her to find magic in the ordinary, to imagine, to create and to believe in fairy tales. Someday she will make her 5 by 5 dorm-room her home with magic touches and inspiration. And she will fall in love with a boy and believe him to be Prince Charming.

    16. Read to her. Read her Dr. Seuss and Eric Carle. But also remember the power of Sylvia Plath and Robert Frost. Show her the beauty of words on a page and let her see you enjoy them. Words can be simply written and simply spoken, yet can harvest so much meaning. Help her to find their meaning.

    17. Teach her how to love- with passion and kisses. Love her passionately. Love her father passionately and her siblings passionately. Express your love. Show her how to love with no restraint. Let her get her heart broken and try again. Let her cry, and gush, giggle and scream. She will love like you love or hate like you hate. So, choose love for both you and her.

    18. Encourage her to dance and sing. Dance and sing with her- even if it sounds or looks horrible. Let her wiggle to nursery rhymes. Let her dance on her daddy’s feet and spin in your arms. Then later, let her blast noise and headbang in her bedroom with her door shut if she wants. Or karaoke to Tom Petty in the living room if she would rather. Introduce her to the classics- like The Beatles- and listen to her latest favorite- like Taylor Swift. Share the magic of music together, it will bring you closer- or at least create a soundtrack to your life together.

    19. Share secrets together. Communicate. Talk. Talk about anything. Let her tell you about boys, friends, school. Listen. Ask questions. Share dreams, hopes, concerns. She is not only your daughter, you are not only her mother. Be her friend too.

    20. Teach her manners. Because sometimes you have to be her mother, not just her friend. The world is a happier place when made up of polite words and smiles.

    21. Teach her when to stand-up and when to walk away. Whether she has classmates who tease her because of her glasses, or a boyfriend who tells her she is too fat – let her know she does not have to listen. Make sure she knows how to demand respect – she is worthy of it. It does not mean she has to fight back with fists or words, because sometimes you say more with silence. Also make sure she knows which battles are worth fighting. Remind her that some people can be mean and nasty because of jealousy, or other personal reasons. Help her to understand when to shut her mouth and walk-away. Teach her to be the better person.

    22. Let her choose who she loves. Even when you see through the charming boy she thinks he is, let her love him without your disapproving words; she will anyway. When he breaks her heart, be there for her with words of support rather than I told-you-so. Let her mess up again and again until she finds the one. And when she finds the one, tell her.

    23. Mother her. Being a mother – to her – is undoubtedly one of your greatest accomplishments. Share with her the joys of motherhood, so one day she will want to be a mother too. Remind her over and over again with words and kisses that no one will ever love her like you love her. No one can replace or replicate a mother’s love for their children.

    24. Comfort her. Because sometimes you just need your mommy. When she is sick, rub her back, make her soup and cover her in blankets – no matter how old she is. Someday, if she is giving birth to her own child, push her hair out of her face, encourage her, and tell her how beautiful she is. These are the moments she will remember you for. And someday when her husband rubs her back in attempt to comfort her…she may just whisper, “I need my mommy.”

    25. Be home. When she is sick with a cold or broken heart, she will come to you; welcome her. When she is engaged or pregnant, she will run to you to share her news; embrace her. When she is lost or confused, she will search for you; find her. When she needs advice on boys, schools, friends or an outfit; tell her. She is your daughter and will always need a safe harbor – where she can turn a key to see comforting eyes and a familiar smile; be home.