Age 3-5 years
by Allison McDonald My daughter is crazy about bulldozers right now and we’ve been playing with toy bulldozers in our sensory table . This is such a simple construction site play idea. No need for anything really special other than your child’s favorite construction vehicle. You will see I had a variety of them but her little orange bulldozer was firmly in her hand the whole time.
- Gather your materials. We used dried beans, cinnamon sticks, popsicle sticks , corks , empty ribbon spools, and construction themed toys and tools.
- Start by filling your tub or table with the fillings. She loved pouring the beans in .
- As soon as the cinnamon sticks made their way in she was busy building a new kindergarten. Sensory play like this offers so many opportunities to learn but don’t push it. Their imaginations will lead them and if you are present you will be able to find little moments to jump in but don’t feel you need to by any means.
- The main thing she wanted to do was build with her dad ( we did this on a Saturday so he was home to play) and bulldoze things off the cliff. She did a lot of sorting and counting without prompting from me.
Dig Dig Digging by Margaret Mayo is one of the few books we have that we have bought twice. Our first copy was so well loved that we knew when it could not be read anymore that it would be immediately replaced. This book is imbedded in my brain ( and heart) because both my children have gone through a phase where it’s their absolute favorite. The book takes readers through different vehicles like firetrucks, rescue helicopters and of course bulldozers. The text is repetitive and will get stuck in your head for days but it’s ok because your kids will recite it along with you.
Dazzling Diggers (Amazing Machines) by Tony Mitton is part of the Amazing Machines series of books that are favorites of both my kids. Now my son reads them to my daughter and yes my heart bursts when he reads to her and it makes me completely forget when he tackles her. The book themselves are little gems. This one talks about diggers and bulldozers with absolutely fantastic rhymes. What amazes me about this book is that your child will actually come away having learned something substantial about the vehicles in it at the same time as loving the brilliant rhyming text. Must read for construction vehicle fans.
Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker will have to be renewed from the library while I wait for my copy to come from Amazon. This book is starting to get pretty popular and rightfully so, it’s a lovely book. In it busy little construction vehicles wind down for the night and fall asleep. I never thought I would say an excavator was cute but the one in the book is. It’s a wonderful bedtime book and your child will enjoy winding down with the sleepy bulldozer and his friends. My daughter completely adores this book.The book links are affiliate links.
Last week we played with our Alphabet Garden and a commenter asked how I could make it for children who loved cars and trucks. This is the letter sorting game that I came up with for cars and trucks. You could do it as a magnet activity like we did or put it all on a sheet of contact paper like our alphabet garden, whatever best fits your child. This activity is part of our Alphabet for Starters series that is focused on making playing with letters fun and dynamic. This can be adapted to any level. For children just beginning to notice letters they can simply put the letters on the road. Don’t worry about sorting into cases. For older children use the letters to spell. Write words with a missing letter and have your older child fill in the blank. Here is what we did for my daughter who is familiar with both upper and lowercase letters and enjoys sorting them.
- Gather your materials. You will need some black construction paper, green construction paper ( scraps would work great), clear contact paper , pictures of cars and trucks ( mine come from wrapping paper) , self adhesive magnetic sheets, a white crayon, scissors, a marker and a cookie sheet from the dollar store.
- Start by making your cars and trucks. Cut the cars out. Add the letters. I didn’t do every letter in both upper and lowercase. I chose letters that my daughter has trouble with mixed in with some sure fire bets so she would be challenged but confident in her ability.
- Lay a large sheet of contact paper down sticky side up and lay the cars face down. Place another sheet on top to sandwich the cars inside. Or laminate if you have access to a laminator. I am very jealous if you do. Nothing gets a teacher ( even a former teacher) more excited than laminating something. Cut into individual cars and trucks.
- Add the magnets. Now if you have a child who is well past the putting things in their mouth stage cut little squares and stick them on the back of the cars. If you want you could also lay the whole laminated car on the sticky back magnet sheet and then cut . This will make it harder for the to peel any small piece off. Please always remember that all our activities are designed for children to do with a parent within arms reach and only if they are ready for the activity. You don’t have to make the pieces magnetic for the kids to have fun, it’s just a bonus.
- Make a simple road and some signs saying UPPERCASE ROAD and lowercase road . These give visual cues even for kids that aren’t reading independently . You can add magnets to these if you want too. Painter’s tape is a great choice if you are skipping the magnets but want these pieces to stay in place temporarily.
- Ready to play! This is what it would look like if I handed it to my 6 year old. For my almost 3 year old it looked like this. She ended up sorting all the letters but I gave them to her in bite size pieces so she wasn’t overwhelmed.
- She loves cars and trucks right now ( well really bulldozers are the best) so she was all into it. After the first few were put on she asked me for more. Remember to label what your child is doing and to sit back. If they ask for help be ready to support but don’t take over.
- The trickiest part for her were letters like w and o. She thought for a long time before placing them down. She just kept piling them on. And was insistent that she show it off at the end. I was impressed with how many magnets piled together still stayed in place.
Alphabeep!: A Zipping, Zooming ABC by Debora Pearson is a great book for older toddlers and preschoolers. The transportation themed book uses rhymes and colorful illustrations to go from A to Z. The text was a bit long for my young toddler but I shortened it and he was able to enjoy the book , children 2 and up will love it just the way it is! This is on my must buy list. Edited for 2013 : My daughter also loved this book and had me read it twice at the library which is a glowing review.
For more Alphabet Books check out our list of 50 Alphabet Books We LoveThis book review includes an affiliate link.
This painting with sound activity was too brilliant to not share. It’s a perfect addition to a 5 senses theme. I can’t claim any credit for this other than choosing a great preschool for my kids. This came directly from my daughter’s teachers and when I saw it Wednesday I gasped because it’s pretty rare when I see something new to me. The only thing I changed was to put it on a vertical surface but that was because I was duplicating the activity only a few hours after my daughter did it at school and wanted to change it a little for her. I love using my doors as makeshift easels.
- Gather your materials. You will need some paintbrushes ( these were sent to me from craftprojectideas.com and worked well! ) , jingle bells, pipe cleaners, paper, and paint. If you are doing this on a window like we did you will want some painter’s tape to keep the paper up without leaving crud on your window.
- Start by threading the bells on the pipe cleaners. I put different numbers of bells on each to create slightly different sounds.
- Wrap around the end of the paint brushes.
- Let your little one explore the brushes and shake before they get covered in paint . She shook them as hard as she could before they were covered in paint.
- Grab some paint and paper.
- Add your artist. She really liked this and loved hearing the jiggle bells as she was painting. We talked about which ones made the prettiest sound and she decided she only liked 3 out of the 4 and refused to use the largest one at all. Using the vertical surface seemed to encourage her to make big strokes which really made the bells jingle. We ended up learning all about color mixing too. She wanted to make red so we tried all the combinations to discover how close we could come to it. Don’t shy away from lessons like color mixing that emerge from other ones. Yes the plan was to talk about sound but there is always room for more or different lessons.
- I even managed to step away and start dinner while she painted and made beautiful tinkling sounds.
by Allison McDonald
Earth Day is coming up and I have been talking to my kids more and more about why we recycle and what we also try to re-use at home. As you can imagine we re-use many things for projects and activities I write about on the blog. So much so that my son will often hand me his garbage and say ” Can you use this for a project?” Even I haven’t found a good use for string cheese wrappers ! Today we are using a collection of recycled objects for a wide open art project. As you will see my daughter has a favorite earth friendly painting tool.
- Gather your materials. You will need some paint, a tray for the paint, some paper, and recycled objects to paint with. We went around the house and into my art closet to choose the objects.
- Pour paint into the tray ( or cake pan) . I had my daughter look outside to tell me what colors she saw. Then we used those colors for the painting. I have the paper taped down because I had a feeling she’d end up finger painting and this keeps the paper from sticking to her hands and ending up on the floor.
- Explore! This is wide open . She liked the toilet paper roll but hated the little cap. The ribbon spool made interesting prints but the real fun was in using her hands. The ultimate re-usable paint brush! After plopping on the paint with her hands she explored the marks that some of the recycled objects made. Rolling the toilet paper roll was a fun discovery too.
Books About Recycling
The Adventures of a Plastic Bottle: A Story About Recycling by Alison Inches is awesome! I only wish that my son was old enough to enjoy it as much as I did. It’s not aimed at 2 year olds at all, but he did like to open it to the page with the recycling truck and point out all the parts to me. The book itself takes the reader through the complete process from crude oil, to bottle and then to synthetic fleece. I am not too proud to admit I learned s a few new things and had a few good laughs along the way with the books little bits of humor too. I think most 5 year olds would enjoy this book, and it’s easy to break it down for those unable to sit for this much text. Also the book was printed on 100% post consumer waste paper.
Trash And Recycling by Stephanie Turnball is a great book ! I learned more about garbage and the recycling process reading this to my son over lunch than I ever knew! He loved it and despite being a pretty sophisticated book for a 3 year old immediately asked to read it again as soon as I closed it. It explains the whole process from curbside pick up, land fills, incineration and recycling. The idea for today’s activity came from the sorting of recyclable garbage from this book!
While we were learning about China for Chinese New Year months ago we read about woodcut printing. I was going to do it with my toddler with foam but my daughter didn’t have the strength or dexterity to press hard enough into the foam to make a permanent designs so we adapted. This project will work for toddlers but older children will still love it. Woodcut Prints are normally carved and older children can do them with foam ( meat trays thoroughly washed were always my favorite!) , ivory soap and even erasers work . Did you carve yours in math class with your compass? No? Well if you did it’s the same technique. Our adaptation reverses the technique but for a toddler experience I think it was still fun intro into print making.
- Gather your materials. You will need some card board, good double stick tape, popscicle sticks, paint, paint brushes, some glitter glue ( optional but everything is better with a little sparkle) and white paper.
- Start by adding the double stick tape to the cardboard. It’s tricky but forgiving, even if the tape is lumpy everything will be OK. I loved to see how hard she was working. You will need at least 4 or 5 pieces in random spots for popsicle sticks to stay on. You can absolutely use glue but make sure it’s all dry before moving on to step 4.
- Next add the sticks. Stick them on and press.
- Add your paint.
- Flip and print onto the paper. Add more paint as needed and keep printing layering it if you want.
- When your child is done printing add some flair if you want. My daughter was adamant about adding glitter.
- Let it all dry and display or use for wrapping paper!