I love using my son’s favorite toys for learning activities because he will incorporate the lessons into his every day play. This was one of his favorite activities of the year and we’ve made many versions of it, although this was the only time he rocked the headband while playing.
How do you use your children’s toys for learning?
I hate just recycling scrap wrapping paper after wrapping gifts. I’d much rather use it for crafts! I also like that this craft is a pretty fast one to set up and depending on your child’s abilities they can do this semi independently. I made lunch while my son did this , stopping only to take pictures and reign in his glue habit ( I would have used a glue stick if mine weren’t all dried up – must get some new ones). One other thing I’d do differently – I’d use a larger piece of paper ( or smaller trees) so you could also make the squares larger, the small ones were at some times tricky to match up.
- Gather your materials. You will need a large sheet of construction paper multiple scrap pieces of wrapping paper,a marker, scissors and glue.
- Start by cutting your wrapping paper into 3 different trees .
- cut the rest into square ‘gifts”
- Glue the trees onto the paper.
- Invite your child to sort and match!
- Glue them on. Like I said a glue stick would be ideal but white glue worked.
More Gift Wrap Crafts
There is no way I would have ever expected this game to be half as popular as it is with my son. He has always loved garbage and recycling, but he took what I thought would be a fun activity and made it something he uses with this other toys. Calling it his recycling depot he has plopped it down on our family room floor all weekend next to the lego fire station and ferry dock. Oh and he continues to sort and re sort the items too! He’s using his imagination, pre math skills and problem solving too!
- Gather your materials. You will need 2-3 containers, some card stock, magazines , scissors, and double stick tape.
- Start by cutting out different recyclable and non recyclable items. This is where they need to really stop and think . If you are doing this with a younger or easily frustrated kiddo do this step yourself and have the game ready for them to figure out. My son was reading when I did this step , it would have been too much for him to make and play the game.
- Tape them onto the card stock. I am using some of the 250 plus business cards that read notimeforflashcards,com <— did you catch the comma? I digress.
- Make simple recycle and garbage signs on some card stock and place in the containers.
- Ok time to play.
- Something I loved about this was how hard he thought about each picture. With the kleenex he said ” Well we throw away the tissue with boogers but recycle the box…” then thought for a while before deciding. After this super simple activity he has been asking ” Is this recyclable Mama? “About everything in our house!
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.
Little Pirate: Why Do We Recycle? by Innovative Kids is a really fun book about recycling with a pirate theme. Yes a pirate theme. Readers learn about recycling, composting and garbage along with two young pirates who need to clean up their ship. The pirates ask questions about different waste and the wise parrot fills them into the facts like the best bag to use while shopping is a cloth one, and what happens to the metal, glass and paper after we put them in the recycle bin.
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!
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
Contributing Writer Kim shares this tasty , easy and really fantastically educational activity with us ! I love her perspective of having two children at different levels, enjoy!
Do you remember candy bracelets? This activity puts an educational and healthier twist to that bracelet from your past. All you will need are chenille stems, loop cereal (such as Fruit Cheerios or Fruit Loops), and an egg carton or muffin tin.
This activity is perfect if you have children at different levels of development because it can be implemented in so many different ways. I have a toddler and a preschooler. Activities that they can both do at the same time score big points with me. I gave my daughter an egg carton and asked her to put the cereal in each compartment. This works great for developing motor skills.
My son was given a muffin tin and asked to sort the cereal by colors. While both of the children put the cereal in their containers, I folded the tips of the chenille stems inward to make sure the wire did not poke the children.
After my son was finished sorting, I gave him a chenille straw. I asked which colors he would like to use to make a bracelet. Out of six colors, he only wanted to use two. So I asked him to thread the cereal onto the stem in a pattern of green, green, orange, orange. Depending on your child, you can do patterns of ABAB, AABB (like we did), ABCABC, or any other pattern.
While my son was threading his cereal, I tried to show my daughter how to thread the cereal onto the stem. As soon as we got one piece of cereal on she would chomp on it and giggle. It was extremely cute and provided her with a ton of fine motor skill practice, but didn’t help me get a picture to share with you. My daughter is only 19 months old and is not ready for patterns, but simply threading the cereal onto the stem is a great activity. She also just used the chenille stem as a hockey stick to shoot the cereal onto the floor. We will just call that a hand-eye coordination building exercise. Mommy didn’t appreciate it very much and put an end to it quickly.
When my son was finished threading the cereal we talked about the pattern and how it made the string look a certain way because of the pattern. I put on a purple and a red at the very end and asked him if those two matched the rest. We talked about how those two didn’t fit in with the pattern, so he decided they needed to be taken off.
To make it a neat bracelet we simply wrapped the chenille stem around his wrist and twisted the ends together. Now you have a great snack to finish up your fun learning activity. The best thing about this snack is that it is portable and can be taken along for the fun.
My son’s preschool class does this activity on a regular basis. As you can imagine it is a big hit with the girls, but met with the same enthusiasm from the boys. I want to thank my son’s preschool teachers for providing me with a fun learning activity that is so easy to do at home. I know they aren’t the ones that originated it, but they shared it with me and I thought I would share it with you.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________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. See what she has been up to over at Mom Tried It.