Leigh’s Corner

January 09 2019

Making Messes and Having Fun…..That’s the Way it Should be Done!

Written by CSMOMs Member Leigh Steidle (Leigh Bee)

Feeling like you’re in a winter rut, or just want to spark some new learning fun? Let’s talk about some meaningful activities that can be used ranging from babies, toddlers, and school aged kiddos.

6 months – 1 year

Baby Sensory/Busy Boards – Sensory/Busy Boards are a great activity for ages 6 months and on.  Most of the items can be purchased right at the Dollar Tree…cheap, easy, stimulating, and fun for your newest little scholar.

Sensory Bags and DIY Tug Box….this website has 34 creative play activities for your itty bitty.

Tape Pull-Fine Motor Play – This was a huge hit with my two.  At about a year old, we focused a lot of our reading on nursery rhymes.  I had just finished Old MacDonald and was looking for extension activities. I came upon this tape pull activity and happened to have a Melissa and Doug farm animal puzzle.  I taped the animals on a cardboard box from Aldi’s.  I threw on a little Old MacDonald song, showed the babies what to do, and let them pull away.

Ages 2-3
Shaving Cream Blocks – Busy Toddler on Instagram is an absolute favorite of mine. Everything is play-based learning, which I’m a huge fan of. This activity is awesome because you can hit so many areas: building and fine motor, talking about colors, numbers, and patterns you may see. My favorite type of activities are ones that lend themselves to different content.

-Sensory Bins – Sensory Bins have “bin” around forever (See what I did there?!) and are some of the easiest and most affordable learning resources in your home that provide endless amounts of fun for your toddler. You can choose many different items to focus on for each bin. For example, a themed bin (i.e. Halloween), color bin, alphabet bin, or animal bin to name just a few. More than likely these items are already in your house. I’ve recently made a simple alphabet one with beans and a Melissa and Doug puzzle. Boom. Done! It’s that easy. Your kids are playing, being exposed to their letters, and everyone’s happy. Side note to the mommy anxious of mess (that’s me ha!): Expect a mess. Set your expectations low, know you may be sweeping or vacuuming beans or rice off the floor, but let your kiddo live their best life and play with the bins! Cotton balls are a great alternative to food items in your bins and also less mess. You’re welcome. Sensory bins are high up on my list of activities because they can be tailored for ages 1-6. You can start at age one just working on fine motor skills, exposure to colors, numbers etc. By ages 2-3, you can add letters, numbers, and shapes to help your child identify these items. Finally, around ages 4-6, children can still work with letters to create sight words and numbers to begin counting, counting on, and making simple number equations.

Breakfast Invitations – Please, please, please if you haven’t already, check out Days with Grey on Instagram.  She has created something called “Breakfast Invitations.”  The idea is that you prep the activity the night before, lay it out before your precious angels awake, and when they rise from their slumber they have a fun little activity to work on as your prep breakfast and whatnot. They are the coolest thing since sliced bread lol.  For real!  Super low prep, meaningful, and engaging activities.  You can adapt all activities to fit your children’s needs.

Ages 4-5

Tinker Tray Robots – I came across this amazing little project on Pinterest. What kid doesn’t enjoy building their very own robot?! I’d say this activity is really geared toward 4 and up. First, you need to build your tinker tray. Tinker trays can consist of anything and everything! Find a muffin tin, ice tray, or an old silverware holder. Fill it with items like marbles, beads, little twigs and sticks, wine corks, bottle caps, push pins…whatever your heart desires.  The two links below give more information regarding tinker trays and step-by-step instructions to building a Tinker Tray Robot. I love projects like this because you really get a chance to see your child’s creative juices at work.

LEGO Marble Maze – Legos are a universal toy that children never seem to outgrow.  I love this idea of creating a marble maze.  Children can work together to problem solve or work independently to see the different mazes that they can create.

6 and up

Hot Rocks –Tapping into your child’s artistic side, this project prep takes nothing more than rocks from your yard, crayons, tin foil, your oven, and voila! Beautiful pieces of rock art! A fun and easy craft for a rainy day.

DIY Bouncy Balls – I made these in my own second grade class and the kids had an absolute blast. I incorporated math into this project as it took place during our measurement unit. The kiddos made their bouncy balls and then took them outside to the courtyard. Each child got to bounce their balls and their partner used a yard sticks to measure how high they bounced (Don’t worry! They didn’t bounce TOO high haha)! Definitely a favorite lesson of mine. You can most definitely tie in science as well to discuss the different states of matter.

Below I’ve included an additional list of activities for this specific age group.  Most are STEAM Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) activities.  I find these activities so great because you really get a chance to challenge your child to think critically, problem solve, and just the overall conversation that you may hear can be so fascinating.

Paper Airplane Challenge

Straw Roller Coaster

Build a Water Slide

Lava Lamps