Candy Color Sort

With lots of leftover Easter candy still in the pantry, I decided to sneak in a little learning (colors and mathematical sorting) while Veronika nibbled on a sweet snack!

I poured candy out onto a paper plate, making sure we had every color of the rainbow thanks to a mix of Giggles chewy candies and chocolate candies from Unreal.

I then set out a muffin tray, and put a few of each color in the muffin cups to get her started. “Where should this blue one go?” I asked, and she dropped it in with the blue.

Of course there was much snacking amidst the sorting, but she enjoyed the process! Every once in a while, I would trick her by deliberately putting a candy in the wrong cup. She very quickly spotted a yellow lurking among the green, and moved it to the correct place. Talk about a sweet way to taste the rainbow!

Picture Sort

Veronika and I are working on the concept of making a “match”, so here was a new way to turn the idea into a game!

To start, I cut images from magazines that could be sorted into pairs. These weren’t exact copies of each other, although you could make them so if you have a double copy of one magazine. Our pictures included: 2 shoes, 2 houses, 2 chairs, 2 images of flowers, and so forth.

Glue all these images onto index cards. For a more durable version of this game, you can try a few suggestions from The Toddler’s Busy Book. One option is to cover the cards with contact paper. To take it a step further, glue each image to a round metal lid, as from a frozen juice can, before covering with contact paper.

I kept things simple with the index cards, though, and set them out in a scrambled pile in front of Veronika. Her job was to make each match! When she picked up one shoe picture, I asked, “Can you find it’s match?” She quickly did so, showing that she’s grasped the concept.

Once the cards were all sorted, she had fun simply playing with them and looking at the images for a while. Next time, I might add magnetic strips to the back of the index cards so she can move them around like magnets on the fridge.

Color Cube

This giant color “dice” is a fun way to play with toddlers or preschoolers for a variety of color games. Even better, all you need to make it is two upcycled cartons (I used soy milk).

Clean and dry the cartons completely, then cut each one in half. You can now nest them together so they form a perfect cube.

Cut squares of construction paper in a different color for each side, and glue onto the cube. Let dry overnight. The next morning, Veronika couldn’t wait to give the dice a few rolls the moment she spotted it.

Then we started adding in some color challenges. Depending what color landed face up on the cube, I had her run to fetch an object of that color.

Her favorite was a version where we matched the cube to crayons. After each roll, she selected a crayon from our set, and then of course wanted to color on the corresponding side of the cube. Pretty soon we had a decorated dice!

You can play lots of variations on these games, whether having your child hunt for a color object, race to see who can bring back the correct color fasted, have your child hand you a corresponding color of construction paper, and more! Next time we might try a shape cube for a shape hunt instead.

Sorting and Comparing, Two Ways

With Veronika a little under the weather, we were looking for low-key activities that would keep her engaged without much physical effort. Here are two fun ways to play with early toddler math concepts: comparing two or more things; and sorting things according to some characteristic.

First, we played a classic game of Large and Small. I gave her a set of objects from around the house, with one item big and one smaller, including: spoons, crayons, socks, and toy bunnies.

For each, she was always able to select which was bigger…

and which was smaller, with no problem.

Sometimes I mixed it up and used words like “longer” or “shorter”, to throw her a curve ball! This made her pause and think a bit longer before picking which item fit the bill.

You can then encourage your child to sort the objects into two piles, with all the big items to one side and the small items to the other. This led us right into the next game: Sticker Sorting!

This time, I taped up sheets of colored construction paper to the wall that matched a set of dot label stickers. She simply had to decide where each sticker should go.

Sometimes she wanted to cover a piece of paper with every dot in that color, as for favorites like red and purple.

Other colors she was content to put only one or two stickers.

But whether a few stickers or lots, she sorted them correctly by color each time.

Turntable Fun

Veronika was feeling a little under the weather with a sniffle today, so I was on the hunt for games we could play while cozy on the couch. What could be lazier than a lazy Susan?

If you don’t own a lazy Susan (or similar turntable in your kitchen), there’s no need to purchase one just for this game. I simply grabbed the spinning turntable out of the microwave and put it to a different use!

To set up, you’ll need a double set of images. First, I put colored dot stickers onto index cards that Veronika could hold in her hand. Then, I taped colored squares of construction paper with the same color dot sticker around the rim of the turntable, as shown below. Time to spin and make a match!

For each color in her hand, we spun the turntable around until that particular color was closest to her, and she placed down her corresponding index card.

She aced the entire test without a single error, and loved the way that the whole contraption could spin.

This was a cute way to keep her busy and squeeze in some learning while staying cozy! Don’t feel obligated to stick to dot stickers, either. Any set of matching images or objects will work for this game.

Find the Letter and Swat It

Veronika loved painting with a fly swatter last summer, and today we took that same tool and used it for a little learning instead! To start, I wrote out the alphabet on a large piece of cardboard (poster board would work too), making the letters bright and bold.

Then I simply handed over the swatter. She loves to say “splat!” every time it lands down, and I told her today we were going to “splat” the letters. We played in a few different ways. First, I asked her to swat at a specific letter, choosing those I know she is familiar with, as with S and V. She happily obliged.

Then I asked her to choose a letter, and name it for me as she swatted it. Sometimes she swatted down but stayed silent, which was a good chance to remind her the names of a few less familiar letters.

We also sang through the whole alphabet together, tapping each letter with the swatter as we sang its name.

Needless to say, she was a happy alphabet learner today!

Rainy Day Pasta Sort

Dried pasta has so many uses, whether for simple sensory play, making big instruments to shake, or enjoying a little early learning. So when Veronika was a little aimless today, I simply poured three different shapes of pasta from our pantry onto a tray. You can aim to have very different shapes (for a young toddler) or pasta with subtler differences for preschoolers. We used: farfalle, shells, and penne.

First, I invited Veronika to explore all three shapes. She loved that the farfalle looked just like butterflies!

Next, I set out three small containers and challenged her to sort the pasta. The idea was a little hard at first (words like “sort” or “match” are new vocabulary for her). But once I put a few shells in one bin and then asked, “Where does the shell go?” she latched onto the idea. Soon we had three sorted types of pasta!

Of course then it became a free-for-all, with lots of sensory scooping and dumping of all that pasta. You can even dye it if you want to fill up even more time on a rainy day!

Sock Matchup

Veronika is working on the concept of “matching” lately; specifically when presented with a variety of objects, can she find the two that match. This vocab word will make the most sense to your child only in context, so start with the most classic match (or dreaded mismatch!): Socks.

To make the task one step more advanced than classic laundry sorting, I put dot stickers on each of her socks with numbers written in permanent marker. Now she had pairs of socks numbered 1 through 8, and we needed to help each one find its match!

Sometimes during this task she focused on the number to make a match.

Sometimes, I could tell she was looking more at the color or pattern of the sock instead. But ultimately, she was able to find each match!

Q-Tip Painting, 4 Ways

Whenever Veronika spots q-tips in the bathroom, she’s eager to play with them. So today we gave into that urge, and used the cotton swabs for arts & crafts instead! Below are four different methods that she and I tested out.

One: Negative Images

For the first craft, you can use any glass pie plate (or baking dish or loaf pan) as the “canvas”. I spread a little tempera paint thinly in the bottom, then handed Veronika a q-tip as her brush. Any lines that your child makes leave a negative image or etching behind.

The idea was a bit advanced for Veronika, but after she’d done some scribbling, she loved seeing the deliberate images I drew for her, like a sun or puppy.

We even tried making a print of it by pressing down a piece of white paper, although it ended up looking more like abstract art.

Two: Color mixing

Cotton swabs are just right for mixing up colors, giving a chance to teach a little about primary and secondary colors! I poured a little of each primary color (red, yellow, and blue) onto a paper plate, and first showed them to Veronika as we named each.

One at a time, we mixed them! Our red and yellow made orange, yellow and blue made green, and blue and red made purple. Now we had a full palette for…

Three: Pointillism

The tip of a cotton swab is naturally suited for making dots (although Veronika practiced making a few swirls, too), which is a great introduction to the pointillist style of painting.

I dotted right alongside her, so pretty soon we had a pointillism rainbow and sun and clouds, with a little blue puppy beneath. Veronika loved adding to the picture I started, making very emphatic dots. My little artist at work!

Four: Counting

For our final q-tip activity, I wrote out the digits 1, 2, and 3 for Veronika. After encouraging her to name each number, I asked her to make the correct number of dots with her q-tip underneath. “Can you make 1 dot?” I asked her. Dot!

She was also able to do this for number 2. By 3, she just started dotting everywhere. But of course preschoolers can tackle this task all the way up to 10, or higher! For an even greater challenge, stamp out a connect-the-dots with the q-tips, then number them and have your child connect the lines.

Which of these q-tip activities does your child like best? Please share in the comments. Many thanks to Hands on As We Grow for all these q-tip ideas!

Alphabet Sand

When I needed to occupy Veronika quickly today, I gave her a little tray of alphabet sand, one of those “oldie but goodie” sensory games that never fails.

What is alphabet sand, you ask? It isn’t sand at all, but my secret mix of equal parts sugar and salt in the bottom of a cake pan. Set it down in front of your toddler and let them practice tracing the alphabet!

For early learners like Veronika, I usually start out by coaching her through a few easy examples like O, X, V, and T. We use our fingers, but also lollipop sticks, which make great “pens”.

After she’s done a few letters, she’s usually ready just to squiggle, or to draw lines and circles. She also loves to let the mixture sprinkle down into the cake pan from her fingers. When she shifts her sprinkling over to the floor, that’s when I know the game is done and we quickly sweep up.

Want something similar but a bit more challenging? Hide alphabet puzzle pieces in the mixture instead!