This article is updated as Scarlett is growing up, so you’ll see that different month ages are mentioned here.
Shape monsters activities
Originally I made these shape monsters for stringing activity but we found some other ideas how to play with them. They are made out of felt sheets (you want stiff ones to keep the shape). I cut out squares, triangles and circles, put googly eyes on them and made a slit in the middle of each shape. Googly eyes are optional if you think your child might put them in his or her mouth. Scarlett wasn’t interested in taking the eyes off, so I kept them. I made an identical pair for each shape. Here are a few ways how we play with these shape monsters:
- First of all, having those slits in the middle of each shape, allows Scarlett to put them on her fingers, so they kind of turn into finger puppet monsters. When she puts one shape on her finger, I ask her to find identical one and put it on the finger on the other hand.
- I have been using a plastic box from a bento box take-out that we ordered recently for sorting activities. Shapes can be sorted by type in each container section.
- I separated two identical pairs of shape monsters into 2 piles. As Scarlett takes one shape from one pile, I ask her to find a matching pair from another, and arrange them on a table in pairs.
Another activity idea is to put these shape monsters on craft sticks or straws.
They are great for learning shapes, you can be creative and come up with your ideas how to play.
Move the buttons into the circle
Put a few buttons in a ziplock bag, add some hair gel, draw a circle on the back of the bag, and tape it to the window. The purpose of the activity is to move all those buttons inside the circle. It’s great for development of motor skills for those little fingers! I also drew eyes and a nose of a cat, to make it look like he’s eating the buttons. Another variation of this activity is to place buttons of 2 colors in the bag, and draw 2 circles of those colors on the bag, and then the goal of the activity would be to move the buttons to the circle of the same color.
Fishing game for toddlers
This game took me 5 minutes to make. I cut out shapes of fish from cardstock paper, placed adhesive magnetic discs on each one, and made a fishing pole by wrapping a strong magnet in a piece of tulle, and tying it to a pen. We took turns catching and releasing fish, and it was fun!
Hiding activity with wipes flip lid
Who knew that playing with flip lids from baby wipes can be so entertaining for a child? I removed flip lids from the wipes packs, and they were still sticky on the edges, so I just placed them on the empty folder to turn them into a playing board. Then I hid a few different flat things under the lids. Scarlett played for 20 minutes(!) opening and closing the lids, and hiding things there. I had time to have my tea, and it was so great!
This activity can be also turned into a memory game, either the one where you look for pairs, or a memory game when the objects are arranged under the lids first and the child has to remember where they are.
Paint on ice
Painting can be more fun for kids when they paint on something unusual. We tried painting on ice, and it seemed like a great painting and sensory activity for her, she was very curious about what is happening. We used regular finger paint and brushes for this activity.
I saw how interested Scarlett was in sorting clean laundry, so I gave her baby socks to practice pairing them. These socks worked great because they have animal faces on them, she really enjoyed matching them, and I had a 5 minute break.
Popcorn sensory play
Scarlett is a very picky eater, so I keep thinking about ways to integrate food into play, to increase a chance of her eating some. Organic popcorn works great for sensory play. I give Scarlett a few cups or containers and a big spoon or ice cream scoop, and she keeps herself very busy transferring popcorn between containers and getting some in her mouth, which makes me happy.
Put hair elastics on doll’s legs/hands
This is a great activity to practice fine motor skills. Scarlett has been first trying to take off the elastics from the doll’s legs that I put there, but now she is learning to put them there herself. There is a variation of putting hair elastics on a bottle, but I found this one to be more interesting to her.
Matching animal figures to book images
First 100 Animals book is great for this activity. I ask Scarlett to look for a toy that’s on the picture and place it next to it. We invested in a variety of Schleich Animals, because they have a very good quality and resemblance to real animals, but any animal toys would work for this activity.
Finger puppets made out of a latex glove
These finger puppets took me less than 2 minutes to make. While they don’t look exactly like ducks, Scarlett was still excited to watch me sing “5 little ducks”, she then tried to put them on her fingers and overall seemed to believe these were ducks. Older kids can get really creative with latex glove finger puppets, and glue feathers and other materials to them.
Sticking foam letters to the window
This activity also gave me about 10 minutes of mommy time. Foam letters stick to a window or mirror when wet, so I sprinkled them a bit with water and gave Scarlett the container. She seemed really impressed that the letters were sticking to the window, and kept taking them off and putting them on. It’s also great for learning letters.
Build a tower and crush into it with a truck
It’s a lot of fun to see a tower being crushed into by a truck. We have been using these Stacking Cups for a variety of activities.
Sort hair elastics by color of the straw
This activity is great for color sorting, it’s easy to set up and clean up. If a child doesn’t sort by colors yet, he or she might enjoy just placing hair elastics on straws regardless of color.
Make a tree by flattening playdough balls
This activity was a success for us. We started using playdough when Scarlett was about 20 months old, and it seems that every day Scarlett likes it more and more. Today I gave her a plate with green playdough balls, drew a tree trunk, and showed her how to flatten the balls in order to make the tree crown. It’s great for motor skills and for sensory experience, but I still have to watch her closely to make sure playdough is not going into her mouth.
Learning emotions and complimentary colors
Complimentary colors are colors that are opposite of each other on the color wheel. They are: green and red, blue and orange, yellow and purple. So I thought of drawing the faces with the opposite emotions on the balloons of the opposite color- happy on red, sad on green, surprised on orange and another sad or angry on blue (turns out angry is the opposite emotion of surprised). I used large googly eyes with eyelashes that I got at a Flying Tiger store (that store has so much cute stuff – it’s dangerous), but eyes can be drawn as well. I’m not sure if Scarlett got my idea, but she had fun with these balloon faces 🙂
Walking on bubble wrap road
If you get any packages with bubble wrap, don’t throw it away! I taped bubble wrap to the floor, and Scarlett had so much fun walking on it. She also crawled on it, and tried to pop the bubbles with her hands. It’s a great sensory experience. I probably enjoyed it as much as her, but had to get off the bubble wrap road to leave the popping for her – the sacrifices we do for our children 🙂
Fox family hand print art
We made this hand print art for father’s day, even though dad participated in this project as well to leave his handprint, and knew what he was getting. I first painted a blue background on canvas myself, let it dry, and then had our family leave their handprints. I like that it’s ready to hang, great for memories, and perfect for our fox themed room. Any child’s art can be converted to a cute painting, if they paint on canvas. I found this good deal on seven pack of 12″ x 12″ canvas and we are using them for our projects.
Inserting craft sticks into a box
This is an easy activity to set up for any DIY enthusiast, like me. I taped 3 pieces of different color construction paper to the top of the box, and made slits in the box to fit the craft sticks. The idea is for a toddler to insert Colored Craft Sticks of the appropriate color into the slits. The activity complexity can be variated by cutting slits in different directions, and this is how I made this box, but my recommendation is, actually, to make the slits in the same direction, as I saw how hard it was for 19 month old Scarlett to find the right way to insert sticks.
Blowing on feathers attached to an umbrella
I tied feathers to a string and taped them to the umbrella, so Scarlett can sit inside it. The idea is to blow on feathers to see them fly, since blowing is so good for training mouth muscles for speech development. But she seemed to enjoy just sitting under the umbrella and playing with them as well.
Rolling ping pong balls into houses
This activity probably explains itself. We used colored ping pong balls and played with the whole family. After we were done rolling ping pong balls, we switched to sending cars to these little garages – it turns out Scarlett’s dad had a collection of little racing cars that were great for this activity.
Sensory play with frozen flowers
We had flowers left over after Mother’s day, so I put some of them into an ice cube tray and froze it. Later on, it was a fun sensory experience for Scarlett to play with these flowery ice cubes. She poured water on them from a teapot and watched them melt.
Stickers on a frog window activity
First, I drew a picture of a frog on a piece of paper. Then I put it inside a clear sheet protector, taped it to the window and gave green round stickers to Scarlett to put it on a frog. Scarlett is 20 months old now and it seems that she understood what she needs to do, she was placing stickers on the area inside the frog that I drew. We tried this activity at 18 months as well, and at that point she was placing stickers all over the sheet. I like to use clear sheet protector since stickers can be removed and changed position on it, and also because the drawing can be reused with another sheet protector.
Matching foam numbers to their outlines
We are really getting lots of mileage out of those foam letters and numbers. Here we just match a number shape to the outline of the shape. I used markers of the same colors for the outline. At 20 months, Scarlett easily does this activity. I’m not sure it’s because we did lots of bingo/lotto matching games with her or not. This activity is great for learning numbers if you are saying them loud once they are matched.
When it’s over 90 degrees hot in New York, we try to come up with gross motor activities to do at home since this baby doesn’t like to sit still. My daily rotation boxes turned out to be useful for building an obstacle course. I showed Scarlett how to step over the obstacles and she got busy repeating.
Montessori animal match game/bingo game
This game was inspired by Montessori Animal Match game. I made this bingo game by glueing these flash cards to 3 poster boards – for each member of our family. I selected flash cards for the objects that I could put in a bag. Then we followed the rules of a bingo game – I pulled objects from the bag one by one and placed them on the board of the person who had that picture on. Whoever fills the board first wins the game. This is an associative lotto game because the objects do not look exactly the same way as they are pictured on the cards, so the child has to associate it with the card. Another version to play this game is to match cards from a deck to cards on the board ( for this, you will need 2 identical packs of flash cards). This game is great for learning new words and letters. I don’t think Scarlett understood the winning part of the game yet, but she enjoyed matching objects.
I highly recommend making or getting finger puppets for toddlers of this age. I made these finger puppets to accompany us to stories that we read and songs that we sing. It’s such a great exercise for little fingers, and adds lots of fun to other activities. Scarlett has been using them over and over again.
Making a swing for animals
Scarlett loves to get in a swing so much – as soon as I mention the word “swing” she runs and climbs in the stroller. So we decided to make a swing for animals at home as well. We made 2 versions – one by tying 2 ribbons to a box and tying the ribbon to the stool, and another one made from craft sticks and washi tape.
Then we got a bunch of animals lined up for the swing. Scarlett took so much pleasure in swinging them – it turned out to be a great pretend play.
Balancing balls on paper tubes
This is a no prep activity – I love those. It’s great to teach kids what size balls to pick to place on paper tubes – large balls will not stay up, and super small balls will fall inside the tube. Placing balls on tubes without destroying the nearby structures is another learning experience.
Sponge water play
Scarlett has been going through a sink water play recently. A while ago I showed her how to carry a step stool to wherever she wants to stand, and now sometimes I regret I ever showed her 🙂 That stool is going everywhere, and in particular she loves bringing it to the bathroom, so I spend a lot of time sitting in a bathroom with her. She loves washing animals in water – I try to bring a different one each time, and she also loves sponges. Sponges are great, they are bright in color, and are so fun to squeeze water out of them and soak them in water again.
DIY Newton’s Craddle
We made this DIY version of Newton’s Cradle. You probably have all seen its fascinating powers – when you swing the first ball and it hits the middle balls, the first ball comes to a dead stop, but the last ball comes up in an arch as high as the first one was released. Not that it’s time for Scarlett to learn law of physics, it was just fun to play with the hanging balls. We used colored ping pong balls and sewing thread.
I lay out 4 cards in front of Scarlett. I name them. Then I flip cards over and ask her where one of the cards is. For example, I lay out cards with balloons, a car, a flower, and a cat, I flip them over, without mixing, and then I ask her: “Show me where the flower is”. She flips a card and we check if she got it right. If she got it, I keep that card picture side up, and ask her to find a cat, and so on. The quantity of the cards can be increased as the child gets better at the game.
The memory cards zip file can be downloaded here. The set includes 32 png files and 8 pdf files (4 cards on each letter size sheet). They are in digital format, so I printed them online at https://www.photoaffections.com/freeprints. You can print up to free 85 pictures a month on this website, they just charge for shipping. These cards can also be printed at home from the pdf file. I just prefer photo cards since they are more durable, I don’t need to cut each paper in 4 after printing, and I can print them from my computer and have them delivered to my home.
Flash cards can be used for this game as well. We like to use these flash cards:
- Touch & Feel Picture Cards: First Words
- Alphabet Pocket Flash Cards
- Picture Words Pocket Flash Cards
If you like this memory game, check out my post about Shichida education method, which focuses on right brain education, and includes a lot of memory games for kids in order to develop photographic memory, as well as other development promoting activities. That post includes a lot of free downloads as well.