This game was a big hit with my 3 year old son. It evolved into so many things. I love activities like that. When your kids can take it in any direction they would like and they are still learning while playing, that is my kind of fun.
My neighbor sells jewelry in her spare time. She gives me the jewelry boxes after she hosts a party. Now if you do not have a neighbor that gives you jewelry boxes (which most of you don’t) you can always use different sized shoe boxes or even food storage containers from your kitchen. Anything that has a detachable lid.
Place your different size boxes out on the table. Put the lids near them, but make sure to not have them in the same positions as the boxes.
Have your child put the lids on the boxes. This is great for shape learning, deductive reasoning, and just plain out fun.
My son asked if we could put things inside the boxes. So I got items that were all different from each other. I grabbed a crayon, craft poms, a decorative marble, and a crumbled piece of paper.
I had him close his eyes while I put these items in different boxes. After he opened his eyes I asked him to figure out which item was in each box. I even drew a little sketch of the different items on a scratch piece of paper so he could remember what he trying to figure out. It worked great because he crossed through the items when he figured them out. It was fun to watch his techniques for figuring out which items were in which box. He would shake, he would tilt from side to side, and he would put one in each hand to compare the weight. I was really impressed. I told him to do whatever he needed to do to figure it out, but he couldn’t open the boxes.
After that fun, this turned into a building activity. The boxes were a city and the craft poms became tress and bushes, while the crayon was a man. I love a preschooler’s imagination!
Now don’t think this was just for preschoolers. My 21 month old got in on the action, too. She matched up the lids.
She shook the boxes to learn the difference between the sounds the different items made. I opened the boxes with her before and after she shook them. I had to be very careful about the poms and the marble. Those items required this activity to be a closely monitored one for her age.
Her learning also evolved. The boxes got stacked and made into a bed for her doll. Soon all of the boxes made there way into the backs of various dump trucks where they continued to be played with in many ways.
So start looking around your house for boxes and containers with lids. Watch and see where your kids take this activity. Then come back and let us know. I know I would love to read about it.
Kim is a contributing writer for No Time For Flash Cards, a mom to a toddler, a preschooler, and a foster parent, too. She juggles her day by trying out fun activities and crafts with the kids. After all, she is just a big kid herself.
When I buy something specifically for an activity and spend more than I want to for only one experience, I try to brainstorm other things to use the item for. That is where this idea came from . I bought these shells for the Beach Sensory Tub we made last week, but wanted to use them for something else as well. Sorting is more than just a time filler in preschools , it’s a math lesson about matching, shapes and counting. Using tongs adds in fine motor and hand eye coordination too. I knew my son would like this but he sorted every single one , dumped them back in and did it again! I got my money’s worth out of these shells!
- Gather your materials. You will need some sea shells, a divided platter ( ours is a chip and dip plate from the dollar store) , and some tongs or kiddie chopsticks !
- Start by placing one of each shell in the divided sections of your platter as a guide for your child.
- Invite them to the table and have them use the tongs to pick up and sort the shells. If this is too frustrating, ditch the tongs and just use their hands.
- Keep going!
- Talk about the shells as you play, we googled sea shells after we finished to look at even more variety of shells .
- Celebrate their efforts- if they sorted 4 shells or all !
Beach Party! by Harriet Ziefert and Simms Taback reminds me of “Head to Toe” by Eric Carle , and that comparison is a compliment. This large board book is a fun and cute way to introduce toddlers to movement as well as animals you find or want to avoid at the beach. The reader is asked how they want to walk today then they see how each animal moves. This would be a fun read for a circle time where kids could get up and move!
The Seashore Book by Charlotte Zolotow is a touching story of a little boy excited to go to the sea for the first time from his mountain home. The mother describes it so well that you will be aching for a trip too! I must admit though that my son and I barely paid attention to the words, we were both so moved by Wendell Minor’s paintings. We couldn’t help but ooh and awe every time we turned the page. My son’s favorite page was the one with the crab, of course!
Fishing Alphabet Game
Numbers are a big deal around here right now. What we liked about math game was that even though we made it a little complicated, you could easily simplify it for even younger kids ( simply write numbers out and have them find the ones you call out)or more challenging for older more advanced mathematicians. (Have them find 2 at a time and add together). Our goal for numbers right now is to work on counting things to discover the amount and match that amount with the numbers he already recognizes. If your child’s goal is different adjust as needed!
- Gather your materials. You will need some different colored paper, a marker , scissors ( we actually ripped the paper) and some floor space.
- Start by folding your paper in 4, so that 2 numbers will both be that color. This just makes it easier, I am using the colors as a clue to help my son but not give away the answer either.
- Write numbers in one square and make the corresponding amount of drawings in the other.
- Cut or rip apart.
- Place either the papers with the numbers or the ones with the numbers around in a circle face up.
- Fan out the others in your hand and invite your child to choose one by asking for the color.
- Hand it to them, if it’s a number ask them to identify it and find it’s match. For the lower numbers my son grabbed the right one immediately, for larger ones he would grab the matching colors then we would count them together to discover which was the correct match. I had to help him touch each star on the larger numbers so that he wouldn’t count them twice, this just takes time and good modeling so don’t get frustrated or worried if your child does hit, just lead by example.
- We played the game 2 times once with the numbers in the circle , once with the stars in the circle – learning is hard work, so we had to pretend to be a clock after!
Museum 123 by The Metropolitan Museum Of Art is another simple but beautiful counting book. What I love about this book is that the number is not on the same page as the onbjects/images the child is being asked to count. Instead a simple question of how many is followed by a painting with the objects, and the next page has a large number. My son loved counting then flipping the page exclaiming ” I knew it , I said that number I was right!” My only complaint is that it only went to 10!
Construction Countdown by K.C Olson is a counting book that uses backhoes, dump trucks and cement mixers among other things to count. Before I even closed the book my son was signing for more. I read it 4 times since getting it out of the library today. A huge hit here!
Edited for 2010 : I wrote that review nearly 2 years ago. The other day at the library my son grabbed the book and begged to read it again. At 3 he still loved the book and I still give it a huge thumbs up!
One, Two, Three by Tom Slaughter is super simple, bold, bright and a great counting book! These aren’t complex books, pictures matter because they should encourage the reader to want to count and connect the number they have counted with the number printed on the page. I would happily recommend this book to families with babies through preschoolers , my 3 year old loved it and partly because he read all the pictures and numbers himself!
Match The Nut !
Before I inundate you with holiday crafts for all the wonderful holidays in December I didn’t want to ignore Thanksgiving or skip right over the end of Autumn. So today we made an easy fall themed memory game that is easy to make , easy to play and best of all, easy to adapt to different ages. When kids make their own games it creates such pride , my son was so excited to tell his dad he played match and made the game too!
- Gather your materials. You will need some card stock ( I used 2 plain note cards) , some crayons or markers ( they will want to play right away so paint slows you down), scissors, a pen or fine tip marker and cookie cutters or stencils.
- Start by tracing your squirrel and acorn.
- Have your child color each pair one color. I told my son to cover all the white, he did pretty well. With really little guys give them a tick crayon or marker, or unwrap the crayon so they can use it’s side for easier coverage.
- Keep going… and going!
- Cut the shapes out. Can you tell how stormy it was today my usually light filled kitchen was a dungeon all day!
- Play- we played match. We put all the pieces down so that you couldn’t see their color and flipped them over one at a time, taking turns to make a match. It didn’t take long but we played a few rounds. With a younger child I would have all the squirrels laid out and put the nuts in a bag and have the child draw the nut out and find the color match. With older children I would make more sets, and include a letter or number that would also have to be matched to challenge them. Told you it’s easy to adapt. In a classroom I would have each child color one pair to make this a group project!
Dot & Jabber and the Great Acorn Mystery by Ellen Stoll Walsh is a perfect fit for this activity! The little mouse detectives Dot and Jabber are trying to figure out how a tiny oak tree has sprouted so far from the big one across the meadow. I love how this book excites my son about learning, he wants to figure out this mystery right along side the two little detectives. Isn’t that what science really is? A mystery to be solved? The mice do solve the mystery and a squirrel is involved but you will have to read the book for all the clues and details. I highly recommend this book , it’s engaging, visually beautiful and teaches about the life cycle of an oak tree effortlessly.
Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach by Melanie Watt is so funny. I love books like this that have absurd humor thrown in. Before you even read the story on the inside flap you will notice a blurb that ends with “This story is not suitable for pirates” it just makes me giggle! The story follows the most anxious squirrel you’ll ever encounter as he tries to make his own beach, only to end up at a busy one! What I love about this book are the details, the small asides will have you laughing and the main story will keep even young ones totally entertained. My son loved it especially the part about the pool being the ocean and the flashlight being the sun, even at two he was trying to tell the squirrel how wrong that was. Super fun and a great message about overcoming fears as well.
Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend by Melanie Watt is hilarious! I laughed out loud from start to finish, my son who is 18 months old didn’t get the humor at all but laughed at me laughing! Older preschoolers will get most of the humor though and like my son, will love the pictures ! Here is my favorite line : in very small print on the inside cover it reads ” * Caution: this story not suitable for walruses. ” Oh how I laughed ! The dry humor aside, the book follows an anxious squirrel looking for a friend , but one that is safe and won’t bite! Of course the message is about taking risks and kids will get it! I love this book!
Wrapping Paper Match
Matching games not only exercise your child’s memory they teach color recognition, patience and taking turns. It’s birthday party season around here and this paper was bought for a friend’s party last week, and this week the extra gets turned into fun. I started out playing it with the cupcakes facing us simply looking for matches, it was way too easy so I flipped them over and we played the game properly, and my son beat me fair and square!
- Gather your materials. You will need some patterned wrapping paper, some construction paper, scissors and a glue stick
- Cut your construction paper into 12 or more squares.
- Cut 2 of each picture out- we did 6 individual picture for 12 cards total.
- Using the glue stick glue the wrapping paper down.
- Let dry
- Play- either face up searching for matches, with young toddlers.
- Or traditionally face down taking turns .
“If You Give A Cat A Cupcake!” by Laura Numeroff is the newest installment of her ever popular “If You Give…” series. I like this one , I mean any book with a cat in a bathing suit is worth a look. I am a big fan of these stories not only because they have just the right amount of text for young preschoolers, but also because the illustrations by Felicia Bond are so detailed you can spend ages talking about what your child sees in the book after the words are read. I love the cause and effect , and after a few readings your child will have fun telling you what’s next.