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.

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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:

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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.)

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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

Little Bunny Rabbit: A Song For Building Cognitive Skills

Whoo hoo, it’s song #1 in this learning songs series!

This easy little finger-play song is great for building concentration and focus, and most little ones think it’s so much fun to play! It has a similar concept to the song Bingo in that you’ll substitute a hand motion for song lyrics.

For Little Bunny Rabbit, you’ll sing the whole song through once or twice using both the hand movements and words. Then you’ll sing it again, swapping out words for only the hand movements. (For some kiddos, it might be best to sing it through a bunch of times first to give them a chance to get to know it better.)

Little Bunny Rabbit:

Little Bunny Rabbit (make bunny ears) had a fly upon her/his nose (point to nose)

A Fly Upon Her/His Nose. A Fly Upon Her/His Nose (point to nose every time)

Little Bunny Rabbit (make bunny ears) Had A Fly Upon Her/His Nose (point to nose)

So She/He Swished It And S/He Swashed It (“swish” your hands by your nose)

And It Flew Away! (hands can be wings, flying away)


After singing it a time or two, leave out some words but keep the hand motions:

Little (make bunny ears) had a fly upon her/his (point to nose)

A fly upon his/her (point to nose)/ a fly upon his/her (point to nose)

Little (make bunny ears) had a fly upon her/his (point to nose)

So she/he (swish and swash hand by face) and she/he (swish and swash hand by face) and it (make hands fly away)


Here are the words without the hand motions, just to make it easier to read (with female pronouns, but feel free to change it to the pronouns you use with your child):

Little Bunny Rabbit had a fly upon her nose

A fly upon her nose, a fly upon her nose

Little Bunny Rabbit had a fly upon her nose

So she swished it and she swashed it and it flew away!


Make this song your own by using your child’s name instead of the word “Bunny” and whatever pronouns you use with your child. You can also make up your own hand movements, or add new ones. I usually do one for fly and swap that in and remove the word fly on the second sing-through. Whatever makes it more fun for you and your kiddo!

This song will help build important cognitive skills, including focus, concentration, listening, and memory, all while increasing motor planning skills and strengthening the fine muscles in the hands and fingers. Hop on, little bunny!

Toddler Activities

Bubble Up! Super Easy Bubble Solution

 

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It’s finally Spring! Here is a super-easy bubble making recipe so you can get outside and enjoy the sun:

Easy-Peasy Bubble Solution

*Warm Water (about 2 1/2 cups will make enough for one bubble sesh)

*Dish Soap (I use Puracy or Seventh Generation, but any soap will do, even baby shampoo can work as long as it can lather up. About 1/4 or less will do with the 2 1/2 cups of water)

*Pinch of Guar Gum

–Mix guar gum with warm water until it is completely dissolved.

–Gently add the dish soap. Try not to let it bubble up as you add it!

Fun bubble wand options:

*Plastic berry baskets

*Wire Hangers (bent into a circle)

*Slinkies

*Wooden Rings

*Pipe Cleaners (bent into a circle)

*Whatever you can find!

Making bubble solution is fun and easy way to add some math and science to your day, as well as fine and gross motor as your kiddos make and chase the bubbles around. Side note: blowing bubbles is a fantastic way to build the muscles in the mouth and lips needed for language development. Bonus!

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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: 

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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?!

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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

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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!

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

Toddler Activities

To Market, To Market: An Easy Market Game

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A Market Treasure Map

When I hear people talking about how their kids have meltdowns in the supermarket, I totally feel their pain. The kids pain, I mean, because sometimes when I’m in the grocery store I want to cry. There are just too many decisions and people and things to think about and expensive stuff that I really, really want but can’t justify buying and weird smells (clean that fish counter, ugh!) and I just get overwhelmed. But my toddler pretty much loves “marketing” so even though my husband does most of our grocery shopping, my son and I will take a trip there every once in awhile. (Did I mention we also play ‘market’ for hours And hours. And hours. Funny how my little one completely imitates me, grabbing a reusable bag and car keys, and buys the same things over and over. Yup, me to a T.)

Since this has been a huge theme of our days recently, I decided to make little ‘treasure map’ lists that he can use to identify letters and items. We can take them to the market to keep him busy searching for items on the list and avoid the dreaded meltdown (for both of us, really) or we can use them in the house when we play our eight millionth game of market. (I’ll stash real items from a list he’s dictated around the playroom or will use felt veggies and fruits so he can find them over and over.) This is such an easy early-literacy game that he just finds delightful, and getting to make silly little grocery doodles keeps me off the streets, so we both kinda win!

Why Try This:

Putting together pictures with words (basic pictograms) can really help build vocabulary and letter-sound recognition. Now he knows that “Eggplant” starts with an E, and what sound an E makes. Now when we talk about other words, like elephant, he might be able to identify it’s first letter.

A treasure map is fantastic for cognitive function and building those thinking and focusing skills!

It keeps us both sane in the grocery store, which is sometimes the most important part of all!

Hope this helps to keep your next shopping trip melt-down free! xo, Meredith