Firstly before I begin this post, let me disclose quite boldly and clearly that most of the ideas for these activities, games and crafts are not my own! I will tell you as we go along exactly where to locate the originals and acknowledge the creativity of other Mama’s who have ‘been there and done that’ way before me!
So that said, I want to share with you some of the activities we’ve been up to lately. Most of the art and crafts are aimed at my oldest child Keeyah who is now 32 months old. She is articulate, imaginative, playful and likes to be involved in pretend play, craft activities and reading books – lots of books! My younger boy is almost 18 months and just getting to a stage where he wants to copy his big sister but sometimes is not yet ready to engage in the same activities as he can’t resist eating paper or small shiny objects!
I read a lot of blogs on creating arts and crafts for toddlers and pre-school children but get a bit disappointed when many of the necessary materials are not available on our small island. However there are many items we CAN make, so while I might not be the most artsy Mama on the blogging block, I’m sharing our homemade fun made with limited resources:
I got this idea from the incredible blog Counting Coconuts which has hundreds of amazing Montessori style crafts and learning games. Seriously this blog is so inspiring and makes ME want to be a child again and engage in all the beautiful activities she makes.
The idea for the I-spy game is to fill a jar with coloured rice as the filler and little trinkets that the kids can then spot. The ones on Counting Coconuts were beautifully crafted in glass jars with different themes. As much as I wanted to emulate these themes it was very challenging to get ANY small items suitable for the activity in Dominica so had to settle for a mish-mash of beads and weird looking little items that had nothing particular in common. Also I knew that having glass jars would be a ridiculous idea in my house where my boy likes to test gravity and throw almost anything he can, so I used our old plastic peanut butter jars which was a great reuse/recycle opportunity anyhow.
To make the rice we used white rice, mixed in a spoon or two of rubbing alcohol followed by the colouring and then left it to dry on trays. Our 7 year-old neighbour helped us and making the rice was a fun activity in itself!
I took photos of all the items before putting them in the jar so that I could print cards that would show which items there were to spy in each jar. Rather than take separate images of each piece, I made a grid on some card and Keeyah placed all the items in their own square so I took the photo of all of them at once. Again this has become an activity in itself as she will often ask me to play the ‘grid game’ where I find her objects to line up on this card!
Rice and Lentils Art
Having some left-over coloured rice from the I-spy bottles we used it along with some split peas of the same colour, to write Keeyah’s name. I glued her name on with the clear liquid glue, she sprinkled the rice and peas on top and with a gentle shake, all that was left was her name! Fun, simple and very effective.
Matching and Sticking Shapes
Keeyah loves to use glue on paper so after a few rounds of sticking randomly shaped scraps, I made her some matching shapes games. When we started this at the beginning of February, I made it really simple with a few different shapes cut from different colour card. I traced the outline of each shape on plain card using a pencil of the same colour for her to match them up. She did this with such ease that I had to make it a little more challenging for her! We did different colour hearts on Valentines day and then I thought I’d try this one using 3 separate base sheets with the same 6 colours but different shapes on each. We had the shapes mixed up so each time she would select one she needed to identify the shape and which page to use. By the end of this game she could clearly identify the shapes Square, Circle and Triangle. We also signed all our colours using both the ASL signs and then finger spelling them too!
The next version of this game I’ve made is two outline sheets with 5 and 6 point stars mingled on each page.
Again this was another fab idea from Counting Coconuts and you can view her amazing creations here. To make our people I cut out some colourful t-shirts and pants from construction paper and heads of various hues. I then sat with Keeyah as she chose a head, and an outfit for each person. Some she wanted to have all in one colour and others were mixed. We then drew on features, hair and boots. Keeyah decided all of the details – short or long hair, colours of eyes, hair and boots, expression on the face, glasses etc. Now when we play with them, we can sort them based on these characteristics. Recently I’ve been cutting out pieces of fabric left over from another activity (see below) so we can do this activity all over again. You can never have too many paper people to play with!
I saw a version of this classic game on Frugal Family Fun Blog which used pipe cleaners as the fish with one magnet on the rod. Well, I knew that getting pipe cleaners in Dominica was about as likely as going skiing on one of our mountains – as near to impossible as one could get barring the intervention of a miracle. So I knew I’d need to do it slightly differently and get more magnets to make the fish. But again that seemed just as unlikely as the snow covered slopes, so I was about to give up on this one for a while and send yet another ‘Please-Mum-can -you send-us-more-craft-materials’ email. But this is a benevolent universe and my luck was in when I bought the weird little items for the I-spy jars (see above), and found that they had magnets as backing! So with this bonus from the heavens (and the Chinese store), I set about making our own version of the fishing game. Since we are vegans I felt a bit weird about the idea of making and catching fish so I made other geometric shapes instead. I cut various shapes along a fold so that I had a front and back, glued the magnet in the middle and covered with sticky-back plastic. The added bonus of this game is that now Keeyah identifies colours and shapes together and has added ‘Rectangle, Pentagon, Hexagon, and Diamond’ to the basics she learned in the shapes matching game (see above)
With so many magnets I got excited and decided to make another game. I’ve been wanting to make a face making game for a while and I read somewhere that felt is good to use for this. Felt in Dominica? Yup another item akin to the skiing holiday in the tropics – not likely. So I got busy with some construction paper to make eyes, noses and mouths and slotted magnets in them before covering with sticky-back plastic (oh I love SBP as it reminds me of my childhood watching Blue Peter, but oh I do kinda get craft-envy when I read about people with laminating machines! I hope one day we will have one of these too!) Keeyah hasn’t loved this game as much as I hoped she would but I think it’s because we really have not had a chance to use them for any length of time. The only magnetic surface we have readily available is the fridge and so I have to have the pieces up out of the way most of the time so Amarii doesn’t get happy with them in his mouth (oh I love him EXACTLY as he is but I might not be that sorry to see the end of this phase!) We will continue to add more facial items when the interest/opportunity arises.
This classic game was super simple to make using just some card and coloured pencils. In the future I’d like to make a picture Dominoes with animals or other themes which I’m sure I’ve seen somewhere.
Fabric Texture Guessing game
I found this game in the book Teaching Montessori in the Home: Pre-School Years: The Pre-School Years. The idea is to get fabrics with different textures and cut two pieces of each. The child feels the first set and then is blindfolded to feel pieces from the second set one by one, matching them up each time. The book advised only doing 3 pieces of material at a time – we started with 6 and Keeyah got 100% with ease. I cut another 6 pieces the next day and she matched them up quickly too. I have since found about 2 more pieces of interestingly textured fabric and am going to mix them in and try the game with a larger amount of pieces next time.
Pack of Cards Number Matching
There are so many games to play with cards and many more far imaginative than this one. However a super simple activity we did was to line up the cards in numerical order and then Keeyah would take cards one-by-one form the rest of the pack, matching them underneath. She enjoyed doing this a lot and it has been great for her identification of numbers that she can already count.
We did the classic pasta necklaces quite some time ago. I then saw (somewhere; I’m not sure the exact link) about threading up pieces of card with holes it. I made some plain shapes with hole punched holes and Keeyah enjoyed this but only once. I think I will have to make some more interesting shapes and try some different materials. She also might be more interested when I finally get round to sitting down and sewing up some things too. Then as if by magic, Keeyah found a piece of plastic thread in the garden yesterday which was the perfect size to go through some beads I had (leftover from the I-spy game). She sat alone and threaded up a fab beaded necklace.
So that’s an insight into some of our homemade activities. You can read more of what we get up to at home my post 35 Simple Indoor Activities for Toddlers on Rainy Days.
Me and the kids are currently staying with my Grandparents and I used their spare room to make Keeyah a makeshift ‘classroom’.
I’ve got a LONG way to go before I reach the dream classroom that I’ve seen on Counting Coconuts, but at least it is start to having a dedicated space to engage in these activities at her own pace and choosing. I’d love to read and see your homemade activities for toddlers and pre-schoolers.
Here are some links to a few more sites that have given me inspiration: