Friday, September 4, 2009

Free or Cheap: A Menu of Toddler Activities for the Younger Toddler

As any momma knows, it's hard to entertain the littlest of the littles. Three-year-olds have pre-school and their imaginations. Four-year-olds are almost ready to move out of the house and get married. Okay, maybe not, but when compared to a 1-year-old or 2-year-old, 4 seems ancient and wise. So I have a special place in my heart for activities that will keep the babies busy. Also, I have one of those babies.

And we've committed to turning off the TV and going TV free.

I think I might be clinically insane. Life without Sesame Street? May not be worth living. I actually like Elmo and Bert and Ernie. I will miss them. If you see them, say hello for me, okay?

Anyway, as I was creating my meal menu plan this week (which is still undone) I had a flash of insight; why not make a Toddler Activities Menu and, oh I don't know, PLAN AHEAD? Am I the only one who has noticed that it's the simplest things that are the hardest?

So I started brainstorming and googling and thinking really hard to come up with the menu below. Sample at will. If you do try something, let me know. Or if you have some ideas, please share, I beg you, because I got bupkus for next week.

1. Fly a 'kite' which will actually be a mylar balloon from the grocery store with a long lead made of yarn. Helium eliminates any wind worries and the 2 and under set have no idea it's not a kite. I think it's brilliant. Cost? Like $3.

2.Visit the paint store and get color samples for all the major color. Cut the chips out and make a graph with one color at the top and blank spaces below for toddlers to match tones. Okay, that's worded a bit awkwardly, but basically we're making a color chart and identifying tones as belonging to the same color family. The top of the chart should have a sample color for toddlers to go by. I'll try to post picks when we do this.

3. Color matching with M&Ms. I'm not sure what I'm going to use as the color match for the toddler to match her M&Ms to. Maybe cut some shapes from construction paper? Print out some fun animals in color (i.e. brown bear, red crab etc...). Use a selection of dirty socks? Something! Plus we get to eat chocolate. HFCS laden chocolate, but still chocolate! Cost? $1? Depends on whether or not you have paper/printer ink on hand.

If/When I find a place to print the animals for free, I'll update with a link. I haven't yet found anything I like though. Dirty socks, here we come!

4. Make an I Spy bottle--this one requires a trip to the craft store. Fill 1/2 a plastic pop bottle (a small one) with corn syrup, then top off with water. With your toddler's help add small alphabet and number beads along with shapes and glitter. Glue on the cap and shake. Cost? $10 for all supplies.

5. Bubbles. Just because my daughter is a bubble nut and we've been out of solution. So I will restock this weekend and we will spend hours blowing bubbles. Cost? $3 The tantrums though will be priceless; my daughter has, shall we say, control issues about blowing bubbles.

6.Water paint. I like water paints over finger paints for young toddlers. Less mess. Cost?$3

7.Stamping. Our craft store is having a blow out sale on stamps so I picked up a dozen or so costing just $1.00 or $0.50. Very cheap. We already have the stamping pad and are all set to stamp ourselves silly--last week we actually stamped our dog's head. He's very white and looked dashing with some purple butterflies on his forehead.

Cost? Stamp pads can be pricey, around $9. Stamps vary from $0.50 up to $10. Our craft store carries foam cubes for fifty cents with a stamp on each side, which is cheap, perfectly sized for little hands, and offers lots of variety in one package.

Note that stamping will result in hands covered with ink--it fades over the course of the day but if you have something special planned, like hand modeling, you might want to forgo the stamps for another time.

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