My first grader is naturally inclined to math and history and if it was up to him I would only ever create games with numbers or facts about past wars. I am happy to have him learn about those things but as his mom I need to stretch him to learn about other things as well. This is an science for kids game that asks players to classify each animal into omnivore, herbivore or carnivore. The hands on aspect of the game is great of young learners and can encourage later imaginative play as well. I like to keep activities like this short since my son attends school full time and my goal is to use these bite sized activities to spark interest and further investigation. For more check out our other Learning After School activities.
Gather your materials. You will need some card stock ( I use the back of sentence strips), marker, and a mix of animal figurines. I like these Safari Ltd North American Wildlife Toob from amazon ( that’s an affiliate link ).
When I invited my son to come do the activity I first had him answer a question on the chalkboard. This isn’t a must do but I will explain why I do it with my son. He loves to know the answer so by starting the activity with a question he can answer it starts him off on a strong confident foot. Then I challenge him with the sorting.
Some were not . After he made his final decision he asked ” Can you Google it to see if we are right?” I loved that he wasn’t looking to get the answer but to check if he was right. This also let me slip in a quick lesson about using reliable online sources. He won’t be searching online without me for a while yet but it’s still a good lesson to start cementing.
For more quick but meaningful learning for after school or any time check out our Learning After School series.
Thanksgiving is on Thursday but it’s not too late to plan some fun and easy Thanksgiving crafts for your toddler. These activities were all done with my kids when they were toddlers ( 18 months – 3 years old) but have been repeated when they were older so rest assured that older siblings will love to join in on these easy Thanksgiving activities too. Check out our tips below to make these crafts even easier and more successful with your children.
This post is filled with advice for crafting with toddlers from accepting mess aversion to choosing good tools like plastic plates but this is my favorite –>
Tip: If your child uses a booster for meals pop them in it when you are doing messy art too. This will relax you so you can both enjoy creating without worrying about Jr. running for the living room covered in red paint.
Explore the texture of the bubble wrap and have fun with this easy activity. Be prepared for aversion too. My son hated it the first time so we rolled with it . Later we followed this favorite tip for success.
Tip: wrap the bubble wrap around a rolling pin for easy printing.
Use glitter glue for a lower mess glitter craft.
Tip : Use baby wipes for messy hands if a sink isn’t right there. They have saved use from many big messes.
We use mini pumpkins as decorations throughout the fall. A few days before Thanksgiving cut one open and paint with it.
Tip: For kids that aren’t keen on wearing smocks find a few tee shirts at a garage sale that you don’t care if it’s stained forever and wear those on painting days.
This has never been our most popular Thanksgiving craft but my kids loved making it so I love sharing it.
Tip: When doing handprint crafts with toddlers that call for multiple hand cut outs layer multiple papers under tracing and cut instead of tracing their hands multiple times.
If you aren’t ready to hand your child scissors yet this activity is great. Tearing paper still builds hand muscles that are required for later scissor and handwriting skills.
Tip : Pre-cut strips of paper that are manageable for little hands.
Mess is hard for a lot of parents. I get it because I try to keep my house in order too and kids have a way of following behind us and messing up what was just cleaned. Sensory play is so valuable for kids as they explore cause and effect, measurement, imaginative play, and more.
Tip : If your child is prone to dumping sensory materials have them sit on a carpeted floor. The materials won’t scatter as far ( or be as much fun to dump) and will be easy to vacuum up.
Painting with turkey basters is fun and squeezing the bulb is actually great for hand strength too. Yes it’s messy but the post is filled with tips to minimize it including –>
Tip : When painting with tools like a turkey baster after painting pop the kid and the tool into the bath and let them get clean together. After the bulk of the paint it off in the bath you can put the tool into the dishwasher for a final clean.
Toddlers may not be able to read and write yet but they can express likes and dislikes. Use a thankful box to teach them to show appreciation for those things they like by modeling.
Tip : When teaching abstract concepts like being thankful to toddlers including a concrete activity like making the box or decorating a jar for the tokens of appreciation to be kept in can create a connection that simple talking about being thankful may not.
This post is a perfect example about being flexible with toddlers. My son who was 3 at the time wanted to include his construction vehicles in the play. With a a few simple additions I was able to include them in and the craft took on an element of imaginative play too.
Tip : Be flexible and let your toddler have some control over their creation.
What is your best tip for crafting with toddlers?
Yesterday we woke up to frost and my daughter was sure it was snow. After preschool I took her to the library and we gathered some new books about snow to learn more. These books about snow range from funny to touching and all will have you hoping for a snow day. All of the book titles in our book lists are affiliate links.
The Mitten by Jan Brett is visually impeccable, each page is so full of details that you will find yourself staring at them long after you have read the words. The story is about a little boy who looses a mitten and what happens next. It’s a sweet retelling of a Ukrainian folk tale but the detailed and layered illustrations really steal the show! My kids love this book but when I told them this same story they told me they hate folk tales. The illustrations by Brett bring this story to life much better than I could obviously!
The Lonesome Polar Bear by Jane Cabrera is a lovely book about a little polar bear who’s only friends are a snow cloud and snow animals and they all keep melting away. The book has an important message about not giving up hope and to keep trying to make friends , a lesson that is worthwhile for everyone. The illustrations are very cute and my son (who was a toddler when we read it )loved it!
Holly’s Red Boots by Francesca Chessa was a delight to read. Holly wants to go outside in the snow but can’t find her boots and we follow along as she looks for them.It’s a cute story and the pictures are scrumptious. My son loved that the dinosaur was wearing her boots and wanted to read that page over and over. I also loved that when she does go outside her mom has her baby sibling in a baby carrier. Fun book!
Un-Brella by Scott Franson is such a cool book. There is not a single line of text in the book , and it’s not missing a thing! The illustrations are so vivid, so layered and tell the story perfectly. A little girl has a magical umbrella that brings sun on a snowy day and snow when her yard is green and sunny. My 2 year old was beside himself laughing and saying “No no” to the little girl wearing her swim suit in the snow. Grab this book and enjoy!
Stella, Queen of the Snow by Marie-Louise Gay is my kind of book. If I were to quote all my favorite bits of this book I would write out most of it. I just love the writing, it’s simple but doesn’t talk down to the reader. The characters are sweet but not saccharine and I love how inquisitive Sam is . Stella is a know it all but not bratty about it at all! Sam has never seen snow before and Stella tells him all about it as they explore the first snow fall of the year.
Snow! Snow! Snow!by Lee Harper captures the excitement of a snow day spent sledding and defying gravity for those precious few moments as you zoom down the hill. My son gave the book a thumbs up but my daughter wasn’t as into it although when the 3 dogs in the book landed with a thump both kids were giggling. Edited to add : This morning my daughter ran to this book and smiled the whole way through loving it! Funny how 8am reading gets a different response than 5pm after a long day.
Snow Sounds: An Onomatopoeic Storyby David A. Johnson is a wonderful book about onomatopoeia and even though I did not tell my son that that was the point of the book when we were done reading and I asked for his thoughts he said ” I liked all the words that are sounds.” The teachable moment was not lost. I loved the illustrations that made me want to put the kettle on and grab some fuzzy slippers.
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats is a classic. Some classics are the type of books that lose their relevance and leave readers wondering what the hype is about. This book is timeless. A little boy goes exploring in the snow and discovers his world in a new way. The illustrations are magical and the way that they convey the emotions this little boy experiences throughout the day are nothing short of perfect.
Here Comes Jack Frost by Kazuno Kohara is another fantastic book that will have you aching for snow. A little boy is lonely after his friends have all gone into hibernation for the winter when Jack Frost shows up. They frolic and play exploring all the fun that winter has to offer friends but when the first signs of spring arrive Jack is gone. The illustrations are perfectly simple and will suck you into a wintery world that you won’t want to leave. My kids love this book and after one reading at the library we bought our own copy.
Birthday Snow by Kim Messinger and Michael LaLumiere is such a sweet book about believing in something even when all the facts say maybe you should give up. Daniel doesn’t give up hope waiting for the snow to come on his birthday , but who really steals the show is his mom and her continued support of her little guy and his determination. A very cute book and a new addition to my must buy list!
Snowbots by Aaron Reynolds is funky, fun , and full of really awesome rhymes. The robot reality is a sweet one and my kids totally dug this book. We were picking favorite robots in the first few pages and loving the book more and more as we read it. The story is a familiar one but with the substitution of robots instead of humans basic snow day things get more interesting. My son loved the snowball fight and my daughter was all over the pink robot. I loved how they had cereal with gasoline and an oil bath. A huge hit with all of us.
White Snow, Bright Snowby Alvin Tresselt is a total throw back to another time and it’s awesome. I love books that haven’t been updated because they offer readers a chance to go back in time and get a glimpse of the past. The story is about a town expecting a snow storm and how it’s different residents prepare and deal with it. The animals , adults , and kids all go about it very differently. The character that stood out for me was the policeman’s wife who doted on her husband and cared for his cold with a mustard plaster. I told you it was a total throw back! I didn’t know they still used mustard plasters in the 40s but that’s why these books are such treasures for kids and parents alike.
Beading is such an awesome fine motor activity because it combines so many skills that young kids are working to master. It works on pincer grasp and hand eye coordination while placing the beads on the string or ribbon but you can work in patterning, color recognition, and counting too. The problem with beading though is that it can frustrate children easily. You must strike a balance of challenge and success to avoid melt downs, or kids just deciding that the activity is no fun. Below you will see how I set up beading with my daughter who will bead for ages provided she can do it with little help. Over the years doing beading projects with preschoolers have taught me a few tricks to make it a smooth process and I am sharing them with you.
Cut your ribbon to the size you want and tape one end to the table using painters tape. This prevents the beads from falling off the end . Also using a thicker ribbon makes it so that if your child does drop the end the beads won’t come flying off.
Best of all was how proud she was of her accomplishment and since she made the necklace all by herself withe the exception of tying the ends together it really felt like an independent accomplishment. Then she was off to play with her garlic press and bulldozer. Bet you never thought you’d hear those two words in the same sentence. Kids are rad.
Do you have any tips for beading with kids ? I would love to hear them !