Age 2-3 years
Every parent has those days at home when you HAVE to get stuff done. Maybe it’s work , homeschooling older children, or maybe you are fighting a bad cold and just don’t have the time to plan and play like you like to. Before you reach for the remote try simple themed play stations instead. This may look like a lot of work to set up but trust me it took 5 minutes. If construction isn’t your child’s thing don’t worry I have ideas below for 6 more themes. You may need to look through the toys in your house to see what you can use but once you write a list it will be a snap to put it together when you need it. What a set up like this does is gives your child stations to move to and from and gives you a little extra time to get things done. The day we did this I was sicker than a dog and this kept my almost 3 year old happy while I tried to get work I normally do after her bedtime done early so I could have a good sleep that night. She did end up watching some PBS Kids but much less than she would have if I had not set this all up.
- Choose the theme. Your best bet is to choose something that your child is really interested in. A new theme is best introduced when you can act as a guide.
- Choose what stations to set up. Again this isn’t a time for too much novelty . Old favorites, things they can do independently and toys that they love . Toys they love but have been put away for a while work great. My stations were : Playdough, dress up, puzzles and books. Gather your toys and materials for the stations. Keep it simple you don’t need to make huge sensory bins or elaborate block areas. I had a puzzle, some playdough with a little people construction worker and some Duplo, a few pretend play props and some books on the theme.
- Play . Show your child the stations ( space them out in as big or as little an area as you feel comfortable with your child) and ask them which they will start with. Most kids will go to each briefly and then go back to each for a second look to really play. When my daughter went to the books I asked her to please read them first by herself and then I would come and read them to her. This gave me enough time to pause what I was doing and join her.
Other Theme Ideas
The links go to posts featuring these simple ideas.
Princess : Books , pink playdough with sequins or beads, princess costume or crown for dress up, build a castle with blocks, make a princess bracelet with a pipe cleaner and pony beads.
Ocean : Books about fish , Tub of water with sea animals, swimming goggles for simple pretend play, under the sea pictures ( blue paper and fish stickers) , fish puzzles.
Bugs : Books about bugs, playdough bugs (add some straws and googly eyes) , egg carton and pipe cleaner caterpillar, draw your own bug ( crayons and paper) , bug puzzles .
ABCs : Alphabet books, playdough with alphabet cookie cutters, alphabet stickers on paper, letter rainbowing, alphabet puzzles.
Cars and Trucks : Car books, make tracks in playdough with cars, make a city with blocks and cars, simple car wash, draw a road on paper and fill it with car and truck stickers.
Cooking : Books about food, cook in the sink, paint with a potato masher, simple grocery store play in the kitchen.
We have been living outside lately and unless it starts really raining I am not sure the playroom will getting many visitors. Here are some of our old favorite toddler activities that my 2 year old and I have been re-visiting over the last few weeks. I hope you find something on this list to turn into an old favorite !
Color & Clean Car Wash
Sound Safari For Toddlers
Fly Swatter Painting
Sidewalk Chalk Games
Play In The Dirt
Painting With Nature
Gardening For Letters
Painting With Water
Backyard Car Wash
Color Hunt On The Go
If you read my post Monday you may have heard my dear daughter is trying to give up her nap. If she refuses to sleep we go outside if possible. This art activity was so much fun. We use our water table as big sensory tub and with this activity we also turned it into an open ended art activity. The results were awesome. This super simple sensory tub painting will be done over and over all summer I promise you!
- Gather your materials. You will need a tub ( we love ours and use it daily) but a large shallow Rubbermaid type bin would work perfectly too. Paint, some brushes and plain paper. You may also want a hose ready for clean up.
- Start by letting your child chose some paint colors .
- Paint the inside of the tub. Explore. She made squiggles with both ends of the pain brushes,added more paint, pretended to drive the cap all around the paint , and mixed with her hands.
- Next grab some paper and print! I was amazed at how well these turned out. They were all different and totally rad.
- Hang up to dry. Finally I had a use for this trellis that has been bare since I killed the plant that was on it. I am good with kids, not so much with plants.
- Now clean out the tub with the hose. Arguably the best part even though the painting was super fun. Who can compete with this?
Anyone who thinks that sensory play is just for toddlers needs to see this post. Since making the swamp sensory tub last year my kids have asked to do another one just like it. I didn’t mean for so long to go by but we finally go around to it and this time made it into an ocean sensory tub with blue gelatin. Play like this is fun and simple and perfect for summer . We leave ours out covered in our yard for a few days and observe how the gelatin changes throughout the day.
- Gather your materials. You will need a container to make the gelatin in, a large container to play in ( we use our … ) , some fun sea animals and glass pebbles, plain gelatin ( I used 5 boxes) and some blue food coloring. You will also need a little bow, scissors, many cups of water and a pot or kettle for the boiling water.
- Start by pouring all the gelatin into a little bowl – 5boxes = 20 packets of gelatin.
- Boil 5 cups of water . Add a few drops of blue coloring to the water.
- Pour 15 cups of cool water into your container.
- Sprinkle the gelatin on top and let rest for one minute.
- Pour the boiling water in and stir until the gelatin is dissolved.
- Hide in your fridge behind yogurt. Well that’s what I did because the last thing I wanted was blue gelatin all over my kitchen . When I made the rainbow gelatin sensory tub I spilled some blue and it it forever to get that stuff off.
- When the gelatin is set about 3 hours ( ours was a little under done but the kids were eager) grab the sea animals and get the table prepared.
- They explored the gelatin before putting it in the table. Touching and tasting it. ” It tastes like zero, nada, nothing .”
- Then we added the gelatin.
- Play!! Clearly the 6 yer old was into it. Literally.
- Because ours was a little under done it was stickier than normal and required more washing off – so they ran to the water in our yard and cleaned themselves off.
Making a mural is a great opportunity for learning, especially cooperative learning. When I was teaching PreK I had a very spirited class and although I made many missteps as a new teacher one thing I did well was to encourage cooperative art projects when bad behaviors started popping up. Murals aren’t only great for making kids work together they are also wonderful for long term projects, getting up from the table to learn and encouraging kids to use proper hand form for writing while writing and drawing on vertical surfaces. Each of these mural projects have other more specific learning goals like shape recognition, counting and fine motor skills but the emphasis is always on fun.
Spring Garden Mural
Math Around The House Mural
Flower Petal Sticky Wall
Heart Rainbow Mural
Letter Flowers Sticky Wall
Jar Lid Match Mural
Peel & Pick Apple Tree
Alphabet Wall Mural
Ocean Shapes Mural
Christmas Tree Sticky Wall