Toddler Activities

Counting, Numeral Matching, and Dump Trucks

IMG_5741.JPGSo, my two-year-old is super into trucks and lately we’ve been doing a lot of counting, so one muggy morning I wanted to combine those two things but didn’t have much in the way of time or supplies. With my son’s help, I made a quick number matching game and a counting game with one of his faves: dump trucks. (Which are super easy to draw, so win-win.) He was able to play with these for quite awhile, then brought them into his indoor sandbox.

All I did to make these was draw a bunch of dump trucks and cut them out, then drew the “boards” on some scrap paper, which literally took under ten minutes. I honestly think cutting things out was the longest part! My son liked them so much that I’d love to re-create them for the felt board, and will post about these games again briefly when that project is done. Because I’m the at-home/working/pregnant mom of a two-year-old that doesn’t like to nap, so obviously I have a ton of time to make felt board games. (Insert sarcastic eye roll here.) Ha, ha.


As simple as these math games are, they do introduce (or reinforce) some basic foundational math ideas. One important aspect of early math concepts is known as one-to-one correspondence. This is when a child can point to objects and count them in order.

IMG_5734.JPG

For very early learners, having both the numbers written on the bottom and the pre-drawn boxes can really help with beginning counting, numeral recognition and understanding, and learning that one-to-one correspondence. The boxes help kiddos figure out how many are there while still grasping those counting and recognition skills. Once all the trucks are in place, it’s much easier to point to each one while counting. (This could take many, many tries and this activity is a success if one truck gets in each box the first time!)

The repetition of counting “one,” then “one, two,” then “one, two, three” is also incredibly helpful for toddlers since repetition is often their best way of learning. (Ever wonder why your two-year-old says the same thing a million times, or wants to read the same book over and over and over until you can recite it in your sleep? When you feel like your brain is starting to melt from all this repetition, just remember this is how they are learning….if you can before the brain melting, that is.)

One note on this game, I wrote the numbers on a separate piece of paper not just because of space, but because I wanted to remove them at times. I think it’s great to practice counting both with and without numerals being a part of the visual because sometimes less is more when learning new things! I also wanted to give my kiddo a chance to count all the trucks, since he’s really enjoying counting to ten and is all about including all the trucks all the time.

As they progress through this activity, you can further challenge them by taking away the pre-determined boxes:

IMG_5732.JPG

Two other math concepts are numeral recognition and matching. Numeral recognition has two parts, knowing “how many” and also what the actual written numeral represents, i.e. the number one stands for one dump truck. This concept is similar to early literacy in that children start to recognize that the letter A is a symbol for specific sounds that can begin the word “apple” or “alligator.” Generally speaking, early learners are taking in both of these ideas around the same time which can be helpful in the learning process and is sometimes referred to symbolic representation.

(Side note: Although related in their cognitive functions, symbolic representation can be different from Piaget’s theory of symbolic function, which also begins around age two. Symbolic function is best represented in dramatic play, where a child can pretend a box is a fire engine or that they are making tea using an old cup. A two-year-old knows what a fire engine or a cup of tea are, and can use another object to symbolize them. I will write more about this in another post on dramatic play, since it is such an important part of child development…and because I love me some dramatic play time! Tiny tangent over.)

IMG_5733.JPG

So, back to matching and numeral recognition. Having a small board like this where the dump trucks can park next to their numbers can help with both of those ideas. Matching the written numerals can create a cognitive connection so the numerals become more recognizable and familiar. Also, I think that taking away the counting aspect can make it easier for some early learners to focus on the actual numerals when just starting out. Again, less can be best when first introducing big ideas.

Whew! So that’s some early math talk. But all these different learning aspects (literacy, art, science, math…) are interconnected and pretty interesting when you start seeing how your kiddos brain works!

Oh, and please see my previous post if you want some simple counting songs. Music is deeply connected to learning and soothes the savage beast…which could be a cranky toddler or the tired parent of said cranky kid.

Hope your day is filled with fun learning love!

Toddler Activities

Blooming Seed Start Hearts

flowers garden plant pink
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Our two-year-old goes to school two mornings a week and though it was a winding, and at times difficult, road finding a classroom environment we felt comfortable with, we all absolutely adore his teachers and school! So as the year comes to and end, I wanted to do something special for them to let them know how much we appreciate them and all the hard work they do. (Because as cute as two-year-olds are, caring for a group of them all day, every day is no easy task! Trust.)

I love DIY projects, especially when my kiddo can participate in the making part. I also love useful gifts so seed starts hearts fit the bill for both of those things.  Not only are they super easy to make, they’ll leave a lasting impression as they bloom over the summer months!

Ingredients:

1 cup Flour

1/4 Cup Cornstarch

1/4 cup Water (give or take)

A handful of Epsom salts

Seeds! I used organic Echinacea seeds because they’re beautiful flowers and what teacher doesn’t need an immune booster around?! I included directions on how to plant them but also how to use the echinacea once it blooms. If they’re into that sort of thing. If not, who cares it’s still a pretty flower to have around!

(Want them to have more color? Add some simple spices like cinnamon or paprika, or even a dash of spirulina.)

To Make: 

  1.  Mix the flour, cornstarch, Epsom salts and water until it makes a play dough like consistency.
  2. Shape into whatever your heart desires. I used heart-shaped baking molds, but cookie cutters or even seed balls are fantastic!
  3. Sprinkle generously with seeds, or roll through a pile if making a ball. We made carrot seed balls for ourselves and my toddler absolutely loved rolling the dough through the tiny seeds.
  4. Let fully dry in a warm spot, but not in direct sunlight.
  5. Depending on the shape you make, you can poke small holes in them and add string once dried. That way, if your teachers aren’t gardeners they can hang them up as either decoration or a mini bird feeder.
  6. I wrapped them with some cute string and added a card that had planting instructions on one side and Echinacea-uses on the other. I also used some envelopes that my little dude stamped when we did our eggplant stamping last week. Bonus!

 

Here is our test run, drying:

img_5630

I’ll post photos of the final product soon, all wrapped and ready!

 

IMG_5605

Toddler Activities, Uncategorized

Ice, Ice Baby: Ice Cube Fun

What better way to spend a warm Spring day then by playing with ice? I love to keep ice cube paint and ice animals chilling in our freezer to pop out whenever  we need something fun to do (or when I need to keep my toddler busy for an extended period of time, whichever comes first.)

Ice Cube Paint: 

IMG_4653.JPG

This is so super easy and really can keep a toddler or preschooler (or even an older kiddo) busy for quite awhile, which makes it worthwhile for that reason alone! It’s basically as easy as making a homemade popsicle, I even use old popsicle molds, but ice cube trays or small containers/cups work too.

How To:

Just mix some homemade or store-bought paint with water and a dash of liquid soap and pour into an ice cube tray or popsicle molds and freeze. Whalah, done! See how easy?!

 IMG_4652.JPG

Paint Pop Tips:

I usually make larger paint pops by using the whole popsicle mold. This is super because my Bub will paint until the whole thing melts so obviously the bigger, the longer this project will last! It’s also easier to re-freeze the popsicle-sized ones if they don’t use the whole thing.

If you make ice cube sized ones, you can use popsicle sticks (or reusable popsicle handles, like I did) but crayons, pencils, and old markers also work well as handles and are also reusable!

About the paint…I used to make homemade, all-natural and organic paint all the time with my kiddo. But, super honest time: now we sometimes use store bought watercolor paint because the colors are brighter and it’s way easier since we do so much art it’s hard to keep up! (I still make it whenever possible, but for this post I used store-bought.) That said, there is zero judgement here so use whatever you want, it’s your project! Watercolors are great, but it can work with any kind of paint, really. (For thicker paint, add more water and soap to thin it out so it will freeze.)

This is better for kiddos that aren’t still mouthing everything, especially if you use popsicle molds, because who doesn’t want to eat a delicious brightly-colored popsicle?!

These can be messy, so you might want to have a tray or something underneath the paper for the melty-ness.

Ice Animals

 IMG_4657.JPG

I always keep some icy animals in the freezer in all seasons. (and I love that my husband has never questioned why there are frozen animals and such in our freezer).  These are even easier than making the paint pops, just toss some mini animals in an ice cube tray (or bag), add water, and freeze. Done and done! I use waterproof reusable lunch bags, but any kind of bag  or freezable container will do the trick.

After they’re frozen, I just pop them into a tray or tub and give my two-year-old some tools so that he can help to free the frozen animals. The tools we use are kitchen utensils, a wooden mallet, and a small hammer, as well as kid-sized goggles and sometimes even a pair of mittens or “work gloves.” Then he can smash away at the ice until the animals are free, which can take a long, long time. Once they are out of the ice, they usually like to frolic in the icy tub, especially in winter if I add some snow. (Adding water to the tub on warmer days is also a ton of fun! Sometimes the ice cube animals like to swim around until they melt on their own.) You can also add other natural items to the tub for the animals to make homes with after they escape the ice, like small twigs, fallen evergreen branches, acorns, and the like. (This can even be an additional part of the activity: go on a nature search with your kiddo for items the animals might want to use for building or playing.)

Ice Animal Tips:

If you want to use the ice cubes in water, having smaller cubes is fun because it’s easier to hold the animals and have them “swim.” Bigger blocks of ice in water are MUCH harder to deal with and break apart because slippery. And icy water. So beware!

My general rule of thumb is: the younger the kiddo, the smaller the cubes. I also add more to the tub so that they don’t have to concentrate only on breaking the cubes apart, but can also build animal homes or just play with the snow or water.

Let kiddos add salt and/or warm water to the tub to see if it helps melt the ice faster. Have sponges, scrubbers, and/or warm washcloths ready to keep little non-mittened hands warm, or to help with melting and washing animals.

**Side note: I usually use plastic or reusable animals for this project but you could easily freeze pinecones or other natural treasures to avoid the plastic animals.**

**COMBINE BOTH ACTIVITIES FOR SOME FUN AND SILLY ART!** 

Why Try It?

Both of these are fantastic for fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

Using alternative art supplies is a super way to stretch cognitive and creative thinking.

Painting and using tools build spatial awareness as well as focus and concentration.

If your kiddos help to make these, there can be math and science lessons in there, when measuring out water and/or paint, filling up trays or bags, and waiting for them to freeze.

These can be completely all-natural and reusable in every way.

They are both suer easy set-ups but can buy you some much needed time! It’s also great to have an activity that can be made whenever you want and used at a later date when you need them most. Win-Win!

IMG_4658.JPG

Hope this keeps you cool and your kiddos busy! xo Meredith 

Toddler Activities

Bookworm Wednesdays: Tap Tap Boom Boom

Tap Tap Boom Boom

Written by Elizabeth Bluemle and Illustrated by Brian Karas

Unknown-1

 

April showers bring May flowers, but we can still enjoy those rainy (or snowy, in Vermont) days while they’re here!

Why I Like It:

The rollicking rhyme scheme is fantastic for reading aloud.

The repeating phrase of “tap tap boom boom” is so much fun for any toddler. My two-year-old loves to say it even when we aren’t reading the book.

The cool illustrations have so much to look at and talk about, almost every page is an adventure.

There is some great vocabulary in this book, including words like “congregate,” which are super language-builders and discussion starters!

The author used to live in NYC, where this book takes place, but now lives in Vermont.

Keep It Going: 

Cloud Art: IMG_4888

Supplies needed:

Cotton Balls and/or Cotton Pads for clouds

Cotton Swabs for rain drops

Washable Paint

Tweezers, Tongs, or Chopsticks (for holding the cloudy shapes)

Glue or Mod Podge

Dish or hand soap

How To:

Mix some glue or Mod Podge with the paint (add a drop of dish soap to make it an easier clean-up.) and then cover those cotton balls/pads!

Using tweezers or tongs, place the sticky clouds on the paper.

Add some drops of rain using the cotton swabs.

Why bother? This is a great way to build fine motor skills, especially if your kiddo is using tweezers or tongs to place the cotton balls on the paper. Holding cotton swabs is also good for those fine motor skills, and all of this helps with hand-eye coordination. Beyond that, using alternative painting tools really gets those cognitive skills fired up…one of the benefits of thinking outside the box!

IMG_4910.JPG
Disclaimer: This one is done with homemade paint, so I only had one not-super-bright color. If you make your own paint or use store-bought, it might be fun to have a variety of colors to make black or gray clouds, different colored raindrops, and rainbows!

Splat Clouds

Supplies Needed: 

Stockings, tights, old socks, whatever. (I used old pantyhose I found at a thrift store.)

Old play dough , sand, birdseed.

Washable Paint.

How To:

Fill the foot of the stocking or whatever you’re using so it makes a cloud-like shape. Tie off the top, leaving a small handle.

Dip in paint and splat on the paper.

Once the paper is covered in clouds, you can add some rain drops or just leave it as a cloudy day.

 

Active Reading Activity:

Whenever you read the words “Tap Tap Boom Boom” have your child bang a drum, jump up and down, or do a yoga pose. This will help them build those listening skills while also keeping them engaged, especially kinesthetic learners!

 

Count The Booms:

As you read, see if you can count how many times you say the word “tap” or “boom.” You can use tools to help you keep count, like drawing lines on a paper or lining up cars or other materials.

Rainbow Fun:

My two-year-old really likes the page with the rainbow, so we have to add some rainbow fun here too! Besides painting and drawing rainbows, we used prisms and the shiny sides of old CD’s (remember those?!) to make rainbows shine from the windows.

pexels-photo-87584.jpeg

Toddler Activities

Bookworm Wednesdays: Books For Preschoolers

 

IMG_4496.jpg

 

Coming Soon!

Book Worm Wednesdays: Books (And Activities) For Preschoolers 

Like reading to your preschool-aged kiddo but don’t know what to read next? Found a book you both love (which is a rare and treasured treat as many kids books are as boring as the day is long) but want to take it further? Each Wednesday, I’ll post about a book that me and my two-year-old both love along with some simple extension activities that you can do at home to make the book come alive…or will at least buy you some time to do your own thing while your kiddos make clothespin people or build easy cardboard bee hives.

Have a book or activity suggestion? Lay it on me! I love me some children’s literature and with a budding bookworm on my hands, I am always on the search for a new fun book to read a million times or an activity to try. Post it in the comments to share or feel free to email me at babytribevt@gmail.com

See all you bookworms next Wednesday! xo, Meredith