In my experience, toddlers love tape (tearing it, sticking it on things, ripping it back up again), and here’s a way to give purpose to all that ripping: trap small toys in the compartments of a muffin tin, then cover over with painter’s tape. Then tell your toddler it’s time to free the toys!
You can use just about any small toy for this game. I used a mix of Veronika’s Calico Critters and Duplo figures. Counting bears would also be great, as suggested on the blog Days with Grey, or tiny Shopkins figures if you’re using a mini muffin tin.
I placed one toy in each compartment and then covered with about 6 pieces of overlapping tape. I wanted to leave some gaps so Veronika would see that there was a toy inside, but consider making a complete cover of tape for older toddlers or preschoolers. Or, make only a few lines of tape for older kids, but have them use scissors instead of their hands!
Veronika quickly proved adept at ripping up the tape and even at getting the sticky tape off her fingers when it momentarily got stuck.
She delighted in discovering who was in each compartment, calling out the names she has for them like Pajama Bunny and Crawler Bunny.
When she was done, she immediately asked for a repeat: “Let’s trap them again!” I repeated the process, and this time she was able to replace some of the tape herself after, soon inventing a game that involved the bunnies taking a “bath” in the little compartments.
It wasn’t long before she wanted a third round! This time she wanted to trap her fireman toys and I switched it up by making long lines of tape instead of trapping each toy individually.
She wasn’t as pleased with this version, but she did puzzle out how to pull up the long strands, after a little deliberation.
I can unequivocally say that this is a fantastic way to keep a child busy, occupying Veronika’s attention far longer than most games.