Toddler Mini Olympics

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If it’s too cold to get outside but you need to get your toddler busy and moving, here’s a fun idea that combines gross motor skills with brain play: Set up a “toddler Olympics” with stations all around your home where your child can stop and tackle a challenge. Choose from just a few of the “events” below or do them all; either way, your toddler is sure to win a gold medal. Thanks must go to The Toddler’s Busy Book as inspiration for this game!

In random order, Veronika tackled the following:

Station 1: First she jumped over a jump rope. Picking it up was more fun though, and she’s practically ready to do a classic jump rope move.

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Station 2: Next she walked along a tape balance beam. She loved doing this at a run, too!

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Station 3: Now she had to crouch down to build a tower with blocks. Encourage your toddler to make his or her tallest creation yet!

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Station 4: I set up two cones as a goal post, and Veronika’s job was to get the ball through. Toddlers can roll or kick, and Veronika chose the latter!

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Station 5: Now we were moving into some fine motor skills. First, she clipped clothespins around an empty oatmeal canister.

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Station 6: Next, I set out cut pieces of straw for her to thread onto a lacing cord.

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Station 7: Time to scribble and draw!

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Station 8: Back to those gross motor skills: she used an empty paper towel tube as a “golf club” to putt around a ping pong ball. I didn’t have a goal for her to get this into, but an empty shoebox on its side would be perfect.

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Station 9: Shape sorter time! This was arguably her favorite station, taking the time to make sure she got every shape in its proper hole.

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Station 10: Sock match! Lay out a few pairs and see if your toddler can help each sock find its mate.

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Station 11: You can’t go wrong with classic toddler bowling. Veronika rolled a small ball toward empty paper towel tubes for a toddler strike. Empty water bottles work well, too.

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Station 12: An old favorite, threading canning rings onto a spoon. Tip: Hold the spoon steady in a blob of play dough.

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Station 13: Hula hoop time! Veronika’s first challenge was to jump into it, but then she rolled it along the floor, pretended she was driving a car with it as her wheel, and more.

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Station 14: Discus and Javelin throw. This was the closest event to the real Olympics. I drew a bullseye on a large piece of butcher paper (newspaper would work, too), and showed her how to toss a paper plate towards it like a discus.

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Use drinking straws instead as a javelin!

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Station 15: Her final stop was a chair maze! Make a big maze out of any chairs or cushions around the house, and encourage your toddler to make it through. The twist was that she had to crawl, no walking allowed!

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Overall, this was an ambitious course for Veronika that challenged her body and brain, and it turned into a full morning of delight. Needless to say, she could revisit the stations at her leisure and keep busy with the various toys and items for hours.

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Rainbow Rice Letter Learning Tray

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It’s been all things rainbow in our house this week as we get closer to St. Patrick’s Day. Here was a new spin on an old idea, since we’ve made rainbow rice before, but with some learning thrown in. Today, there were letters hidden in all that rice!

As a reminder, you can make rainbow rice by combining 1 cup white rice, 1 tablespoon white vinegar, and a few drops of food coloring in a zip-top bag, using 1 bag for each color desired. Seal and shake to coat, then pour onto paper plates and let dry overnight.

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In the morning, I arranged the colors in rainbow order for Veronika. I then set out two sets of letters. The first was smooth rocks, which I had labeled A through Z with a sharpie.

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The second were the pieces of a letter puzzle. I recommend working with only a few letters at a time for a toddler, or you risk wearing out your child’s concentration! As always, a great place to start is the letters of your child’s name, so today I placed the puzzle letters V-I-K-A (Veronika’s nickname) in the rice.

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I pulled our each correspondingly lettered rock, and we went hunting for them! “Hmm, where’s k?” Veronika said so seriously, sifting through the rice with a spoon. “Here it is!”

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After we had matched these letters, it became more of a free-for-all. She loved putting the rocks in the rice and burying them with the spoon.

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Then, as she uncovered each one, we would look over at the puzzle to find the one it matched.

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Finally, things turned into regular sensory play, which was just fine. She loved the sound the rice made as we sprinkled it down!

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The pastel colors of the rice helped us channel spring, which is less than a week away, a very welcome thought as winter weather continues outside.

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