Toddler Treasure Box

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It’s never too early to introduce the fun of treasure hunts and pirate play, even for toddlers who don’t understand the nuances of the make-believe. Here’s a way to let even a toddler dig for “gold”!

We have a collection of old foreign coins, which are perfect for pretend play like this. I clinked a few down in the bottom of a craft bin (making sure Veronika saw), and then buried them under “gold” crinkle paper. (Note: You can pick up the latter at any party store or craft supply store).

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Veronika immediately began taking out big handfuls of the crinkly paper to find that treasure underneath. Not only does the crinkly paper make for fantastic tactile play, but it sounds neat, too!

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Once she reached the bottom of the bin, I made a big deal about finding the treasure.

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“Let’s hide it!” she said. She plinked the coins back in the bin, and this time we layered everything: some paper, a coin, some paper, a coin, and so on.

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Time to dig it all up again!

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My little pirate kept busy with this one for quite a while even after I stopped our joint play.

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Craft-Stick Matching

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Here’s a great DIY puzzle for toddlers who have recently learned their shapes. Matching up the outlines of craft stick is great for fine motor skills, too!

To set up, I arranged jumbo craft sticks on plain white paper and traced the outlines. I made one page each for a triangle, square, and diamond, and decided to trace each shape with a different color just in case we wanted to add a color component to the game.

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I also then colored on the craft sticks with crayon in corresponding colors. We now had a red triangle, green square, and purple diamond.

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Now slip each shape into a zip-top plastic bag and show your toddler how to line the craft sticks up over each outline.

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Because there’s nothing to hold the craft sticks in place as in a puzzle board, Veronika’s shapes were always a little askew, but she certainly had the right idea!

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There was even a happy victory dance after she finished the triangle!

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I loved watching her puzzle through exactly where each stick should go.

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It turned out that she mixed and matched the colors, rather than placing a purple stick in a purple outline, etc., but that was just fine, too.

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Sandy Play Dough

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This sand-laced play dough requires only 4 ingredients, comes together in moments, and works just like kinetic sand!

To make the “sand”, combine 3 cups flour and 4 cups play sand in a large container. Add 1 and 1/4 cups hot water and 1/4 cup vegetable oil. Stir to mix and then knead with your hands until the mixture comes together like play dough.

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That’s it! I set out this sandy beach with lots of sea shells and let the kids go to town. We could construct sand castles…

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…which needed sea shell decorations of course!

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Veronika loved sorting through the shells and arranging them over the play dough best, even more so than working with the dough itself.

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For Travis, meanwhile, it was soon a landscape to play with Lego figures!

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The play dough molds together so easily, so we could make sea snakes or little sand structures, and so much more.

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No matter how they engaged with it, I loved watching brother and sister have fun with this hands-on bin together.

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