Toddlers and preschoolers love life skills activities. These stimulate so many senses and skills. Large and fine motor skills, eye hand coordination, prediction, etc. They are also inexpensive and easy to set up. Here are two we recently did. My daughter loved spooning the lentils with the little spoon. The 3 year old I was babysitting wanted to do the pouring into a cup and then pouring back into the bottle with a funnel over and over again. It was messy at first but she soon caught on how to do it. I got all the things in this post at the dollar store.
What kid doesn’t like playdough? What adult can’t resist squishing playdough as well? Playdough is great for developing hand strength and fine motor skills as well as creativity. But the store bough stuff stinks. Like literally, smell-wise. My husband even complained about it the other day. Making your own playdough is simple and easy and non-stinky. I’ve made our own before but recently I tried this recipe http://www.livingwellspendingless.com/2012/12/08/best-homemade-playdough-recipe/ and it is awesome. I have to admit, I had a hard time giving it up so that the kids could play with it. The secret is to use coconut oil. Usually you can find coconut oil in the oil section or in the natural products section of your grocery store. The coconut oil makes the playdough extra soft and it doesn’t stick to your hands as much. You don’t need a lot. Get the virgin kind and use the rest for cooking. Coconut oil is great for your health, and is a wonderful body moisturizer and even for your scalp and hair. So make up a batch of playdough for your kids to entertain them while you treat yourself to a hot oil treatment. For a full sensory experience add some lovely scents to your playdough. We added cinnamon, clove powder and nutmeg to ours for a Pumpkin Spice playdough which my children and daycare children adore. You could also add vanilla or mint or essential oils.
Anyway, here is the recipe
- 1 c. flour
- 1/4 c. salt
- 2 tsp. cream of tartar (find it in the spice section)
- 1 c. water
- 1 tbsp. coconut oil
- assorted glitter (optional)
- assorted essential oils (cinnamon for red, sweet orange for orange, lemon for yellow, lemongrass for green, peppermint for blue, lavender for purple)
- bags, ribbon, mini cookie cutters & gift tag for packaging
- Measure flour, salt, cream of tartar, water, & oil into a saucepan. You can easily double, triple, or even quadruple the recipe for a bigger batch.
- Place saucepan on stove with burner set to low and begin stirring. The time it takes to turn into playdoh varies, but expect it to take between 10 and 20 minutes to become solid. A bigger batch will take longer.
- Once the mixture begins to thicken and look less lumpy, add the food coloring and essential oil. It is not necessary to measure–just keep adding color and scent until it looks and smells good.
- Keep stirring. If your kids are old/careful enough you can help them stir until it gets too thick. Once larger lumps begin to form, you’ll know you are getting close. Keep stirring!
- Towards the end it will begin to get really thick and difficult to stir. Don’t worry if there are small lumps in the dough. It will be sticky but keep stirring. The play dough is done when it pulls away from the sides and all sticks together in one big lump.
- Set on silicone mat or other heat-proof surface to cool. If dough seems too sticky you can knead it with a little flour.
- To add sparkles, sprinkle dough generously with glitter, then knead dough until sparkles are evenly dispersed, adding more glitter if necessary.
- Repeat process for additional colors; store in airtight container or bag.
Preparation time: 20 minute(s)
Pumpkin 1 knows the names of the numbers from 1-9, she doesn’t know how to count yet and doesn’t understand these numbers equal amounts of things except for 2. When she has 2 of something she’ll say “2”. To encourage her exploration of numbers I purchased this number pegboards http://toys.scholarschoice.ca/number-pegboards.html I thought a long time about purchasing it but I’m so glad I did. I only gave her the cards 1-4 with just the right amount of pegs to start with. She’s pulled it out several times to play with. Not only is she learning the concept of numbers, but exercising fine motor skills as well.
Pumpking 1 LOVES music. She’s always singing and dancing. Music is so important for learning and with winter coming, I want to work in more gross motor skills indoors. So today I put on a cassette tape (yes, I still have some of those and a player) of Bollywood dance music. We don’t have actual playsilks, though I’d love to purchase some from here https://www.etsy.com/shop/BeneathTheRowanTree, but we do have a few regular scarfs. The kids use them for so many things – dress up, blankets, baby clothes, and today we used them for dancing. Pumpkin and I waved them and also did a “follow the leader” type of dancing with them. She loved it and out danced me. Pumpkin 2 enjoyed watching all the activity.
A lot of Montessori activities can be purchased at the Dollar Store. With toddlers you want to focus on life skills such as pouring, scooping, folding, etc… and find motor skills. Pumpkin 1 loves learning and already knows her colours, shapes, some letters and numbers to 9. We’ve been doing some colour sorting. A muffing tin works great for sorting. I glued foam colours to the bottom and she sorted out coloured paper clips. For fine motor skills I found this play dart board made up of posts. I gave her pony beads to put on the posts. It was tricky but she did get the hang of it.
Montessori method has children do their activities on trays on mats. This defines their work area and helps to contain messes. We don’t have any mats yet but the tray was purchases at the Dollar store.
For Pumpkin 2 I try to give him visual stimulation and sensory stimulation. Mirrors are great (also can be purchased at the Dollar Store) and you can print off black and white patterns to place at eye level. Toys of different textures are great for touch and mouthing.