Threading for Toddlers

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Veronika wanted to copy along when Travis threaded beads to make friendship bracelets back in the spring, so today I thought I’d introduce her to the skill! Threading is a fantastic fine motor activity for toddlers, and although I didn’t expect Veronika to ace it today, the idea was to introduce the concept and see if she could loop some items with large holes onto string.

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Good, early items for toddlers to thread include dried tube-shaped pasta, cut up pieces of a paper towel tube, beads with big holes, and wooden craft spools.

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At first I was going to have her thread onto shoe laces…

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…but these were a little droopy and wobbly. We switched over to pipe cleaners which were much sturdier for her!

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She was most interested in the pasta, which was by far the easiest item for her to thread. She could loop it onto the shoelace or the pipe cleaner with a little assistance.

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She also loved testing out the beads, although these were tough for her fingers.

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After a short while, she was mostly just interested in playing with the materials.

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But I thought it was so sweet when big brother Travis swooped in and created a “bracelet” for Veronika.

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She loved his creation!

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Spooning Marbles

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Here was a quick activity today to hone Veronika’s fine motor skills. I’ve seen this activity done with a bowl of marbles on one side of the child and soft egg crate foam (like you’d find under a mattress) on the other side, but you can easily just use a muffin tin.

The latter is what we had on hand, so I started a batch of blue marbles in one tin and gave Veronika a scoop.

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At first reached for the marbles with her fingers, but as soon as I directed her attention to the spoon, she was great about scooping them up and transferring.

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I encouraged her to fill all of the compartments, not just one, and she seemed to enjoy the challenge!

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This was excellent practice for spoon control, since this girl now insists on serving herself soup, cereal, and other watery favorites.

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She then trotted over her to playroom and came back with a tea cup. I loved that she invented her own version of the game, adding marbles to the cup.

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Soon we were enjoying a full marble tea party!

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However your child plays, you’ll need to supervise this particular activity closely, as with all marble play, since they can be a choking hazard.

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Cardboard Weave

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I’ve been working with Travis on weaving this summer, which is not only great for fine motor skills, but also the perfect craft for Camp Mom. Here’s another version that’s very easy for beginner fingers. The trick? Instead of a tiny needle, your child will weave with a stick!

I cut a small square of cardboard from an old delivery box, and wound yarn around it a few times, taping on the back.

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Now we took a stick (you can use one from a recent nature walk, if you like!) and wrap a second color of thick yarn around it a few times.

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Begin threading over and under the yarn on your cardboard.

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Travis was able to do this with no assistance, unlike more delicate weaving projects. He liked the way the stick pulled through at the end of each row.

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That said, he did still tire out quickly, so his final product was only a small scrap. Snip the yarn from the cardboard down the middle of the back, and tie the loose ends together. Chances are Travis can find a way to feature this weaving in games with his action figures!

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Toddler Toothpicks

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While big brother was busy making a big kid craft involving toothpicks, Veronika wanted in on the action. Luckily I knew just how to keep a toddler busy with toothpicks in a safe way! Note: You will still want to supervise this activity a little more closely than most, since the ends of the toothpicks are pointy.

Give your toddler an empty spice jar with small holes in the cap, along with a pile of toothpicks. Chances are you won’t even have to demonstrate!

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The holes are like a magnet for toddlers, begging to be filled up with those little toothpicks.

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This activity was great for Veronika’s fine motor skills, since she had to pinch up the toothpicks from the floor. Then it became an exercise in hand-eye coordination to find a hole.

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Once the jar was filled, she loved taking the lid off to dump it and start over again!

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At a certain point, she realized that the closed jar made a shaky sound when the toothpicks were inside. An instant maraca, and an instant way to keep a toddler busy.

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Clothespin Colors

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I had two goals for this simple activity: to review Veronika’s color knowledge and to hone her pinching skills. She’s just old enough now (at 21 months) to pinch a spring-type clothespin, but I realized quickly that it’s still a struggle for her. So you may want to wait until your toddler is a little older before setting up this activity.

Still, we made it work! I put colored dot stickers at intervals around the rim of an empty coffee can.

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Then I put corresponding dot stickers on the clothespins.

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For each one, I asked her, “What color is this dot?” Once she answered, I had her hunt through her pile for the same color on a clothespin.

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Since the pinching was hard for her, I helped her secure the clothespin to the dot, then moved on to the next one. “What color is here?”

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“Green!” she said proudly.

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We worked our way once around the coffee can one time, though she did then lose interest and wanted to play with more dot stickers instead. Luckily there’s lots to do with leftover clothespins¬†and empty cans if you leave them lying around.

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Coffee Can Games, Two Ways

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I had an empty coffee can in the house, and knew better than to recycle it; it would make a perfect prop for Veronika’s play. To wit, we found two great ways to use it today.

First up was a combination of art and musical play. To decorate the coffee can, I wrapped a piece of contact paper around it, sticky side out. I gave Veronika pieces of old gift wrap and old postcards so she could adorn the outside.

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Once it was decorated perfectly according to her toddler standards, I wrapped a second piece of contact paper on top, sticky side in, to seal her design.

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I then put small jingle bells inside the coffee can and secured the lid.

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Shake shake shake! We sang along (admittedly to unseasonable songs like Jingle Bells!) and she had a huge grin on her face.

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Then she discovered that she could roll the can along the floor and make it jingle. She chased it all around the house this way.

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The drawback to this game was that she wanted to open the lid and get at the bells inside, but I worried about them as a choking hazard. So we repurposed the coffee can! I cut a slit in the top with an X-acto knife and then rounded the corners slightly so she wouldn’t cut her fingers.

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Now she could post (a.k.a. push) pom poms through. “Where did green go?” I asked, popping down the first one as a demonstration.

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She mimicked my words perfectly and talked her way through the entire pile, mostly getting her colors right. “Where did blue go?” “Where did yellow go?”

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When they were all inside, we opened the lid for the big reveal and dumped them out. And then she wanted to do it again! What a great way to keep busy.

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What would you do with an empty coffee can? Please share in the comments!

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Pouring Station Activity

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Here’s an activity that I had originally intended to do outside, but the day was colder and cloudier than anticipated. Thinking quickly, we moved everything inside, which worked just fine! In addition to being pure fun for a toddler, a pouring station like this is a great way to promote dexterity for pouring, a necessary life skill.

To set up the station, I placed a storage bin on the floor, and then filled it with various measuring cups (both liquid and dry varieties) as well as toy pitchers and cups.

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I added a few outliers, too, like a lemon juicer that almost looks like a red boat. I left the bin itself dry (knowing it would get wet soon enough) but filled all of these various cups with water. Most contained clear water, but I added a few drops of food coloring to the see-through measuring cups. In retrospect, this meant we soon had muddy brownish water, but the color was a nice added sensory element.

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It took Veronika no time at all to begin scooping and pouring. She was most interested in the dry measuring cups, using these more like little ladles.

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To pique her interest in pouring from one of the larger “pitchers”, I dumped one out and then she took over. Now we had a fun layer of green water in the bin!

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Soon she had a little “coffee shop” in operation. She loved filling cups from her toy pot, and transferring the water back and forth from cups to pot.

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She happily mixed, poured, ladled, and stirred for over half an hour by herself!

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I had stripped her down to her diaper just in case, but remarkably she didn’t get too wet, either.

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A fantastic way to let a toddler learn to pour.

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Drawer Knobs & Screws

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In the on-going search for household items that keep little hands busy, today’s installation features… drawer knobs! I have a set that I’m saving for one of those “someday” projects, but I realized today they had a current use keeping Veronika occupied.

I twisted off the tiny pieces first (nuts, washers), leaving her with just the screws, the drawer knobs, and the decorative metal backplates. These three components seemed too large to be choking hazards, although I do recommend supervising play like this since even the blunt screws could be a hazard if stepped on or chewed on.

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The idea was for Veronika to line up the screw with the hole of each knob, and she was so proud – and delighted! – that she could do so.

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Sometimes she had the screw turned the wrong way, which meant it didn’t fit into the hole. I showed her how to turn it around for a big smile of success.

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At one point, she did throw a tiny tantrum over it. She threw the items on the floor, and discovered they made fantastic noises! Then she was back to screws and knobs.

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She liked the way the knobs spun around on the screws.

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When she experimented with the backplate on the screw, she discovered that it made a great jangling noise. Almost like little baby cymbals!

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This activity was great for her fine motor skills, but again you can’t quite call it toddler busy play since you’ll need to supervise.

Fine Motor Activity: Craft Sticks + Plastic Bottle

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I recently used up a bottle of non-dairy creamer with a lid that easily opens and closes, revealing a small opening inside. I knew this lid was going to be perfect for Veronika as soon as the bottle was empty, and boy was it ever!

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Rinse out any similar bottle and let dry completely, then give to your toddler along with colored craft sticks. Veronika immediately began transferring sticks into the bottle. She experimented with dropping in one at a time…

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…or seeing if she could fit in a whole handful!

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Of course dumping it out was great fun.

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As was shaking it for a maraca-like sound when it was filled.

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This easily became a color lesson, too. I sorted the sticks into piles for her as she busily filled the bottle. “Purple!” she tends to say when she sees any color right now, so I emphasized the names of some of the others.

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Even better than that hands-on moment with her, though, was the fact that she could return to this game all morning. She’d pop in a few sticks, dump out a few more, then be on her way, only to return again a little while later.

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Tea for Two

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Toddlers love learning to pour and there’s no better place for it than in the bathtub. That way, you literally have no spills to clean up!

I decided to make it extra fun for Veronika by turning a pouring lesson into a tea party game. A low stool made a perfect table, and I filled the tub with a little warm water and got her in her bathing suit.

Set the table with a tea set of course! We added a pot, plates, and two cups, along with a few toy “cookies”.

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She was so happy to be a guest! First I filled our cups with the “tea” and pretended to take a sip, which just made her grin.

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Then it was her turn! She loved being in charge of the tea pot…

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…and also loved using one of the cups to scoop up hot water and fill the other cup.

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We got silly and filled the “cookies” with water two, and experimented with taking the lid on and off the pot.

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She probably could have stayed in here playing this game for hours, but the water got cold!

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