G is for Gravity

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What’s the simplest way to teach a toddler about gravity? Hold a ball up high, drop it, and notice that it always falls down. You can make this experiment easy as pie for a toddler or slightly more complicated for preschoolers, and either way kids will learn and enjoy.

To start, I gathered a variety of the balls we have around the house, aiming for a collection with various sizes and weights. We had rubber bouncy balls, wiffle balls, a squishy basketball, and a slightly harder squash ball.

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Then Veronika had permission to stand on the table! Have your child stand on a similar lofted surface (with supervision of course!), whether indoors on furniture or at a playground on a higher playing structure level.

First I told her just to drop one ball. And of course it fell! We then played around dropping two balls of different densities at the same time. If done right, they should hit the ground at the same time, thanks to laws of acceleration, (but you can skip that fancy scientific explanation with your toddler!).

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Preschoolers might want to get more “scientific”, jotting down results, trying two balls of equal size but different weights, two balls of the same weight but different sizes etc. Did Veronika understand all this? Of course not, but she was up on the furniture tossing balls, then jumping down to retrieve them before running back to start again.

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So yes… She had a ball!

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Balls, Balls, Balls

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Veronika attends a toddler gym class once a week, and her favorite part is always when they bring out a big bin of balls and a hoop and she practices her “slam dunks”. The only problem is that she’s sad every day that isn’t “slam dunk” day! So today, we brought the ball fun home.

I wanted to try working on several different ball skills with her, so first we sat with our legs together to form a little enclosure and rolled a bouncy ball back and forth.

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Then we upped the ante. Turn a laundry basket on its side and roll the ball into this “goal”. She initially wanted to bounce the ball in, but soon switched her focus to rolling.

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Next, we turned the basket upright. Now she could toss or bounce it in!

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Time for slam dunks! Place the basket on top of any slightly higher surface, like a coffee table or stool, and let your toddler reach up high.

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Slam dunk!

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For a final challenge, we angled a couch cushion down like a ramp (you could also use cardboard or a wooden plank for this step). First we rolled the ball down into a waiting basket.

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And then she rolled it up to the tip top of the ramp so we could roll it back down again. This took great concentration, as well as dexterity, on her part.

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In sum, there are so many ways to play with a simple ball at home. What’s your toddler’s favorite ball game? Please share in the comments!

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Cardboard Box Ramps

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Here’s a great use for the box from your latest package delivery, before you send it the way of the recycle bin!

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We received a large box in the mail and I knew it would be perfect for this activity. I cut off the side flaps, and then used duct tape to attach them to the insides of the box at angles. I had originally thought I might hot glue them, but duct tape seemed to work better to achieve the right angle. Veronika loved “helping” by adding some extra duct tape on top.

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Before taping on, cut a hole into each “ramp” so objects can fall from one ramp to the next. I also cut a hole in the top of the box as the starting point.

Time to see if the ramps worked! Veronika loved dropping a golf ball through the hole on top. Sometimes it rolled perfectly from one ramp to the next!

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Other times it rolled off the sides, but this didn’t dampen Veronika’s fun. You might consider some sort of buffer, though, (perhaps made from additional duct tape) to prevent this from happening. You could also place little jars at the bottom to catch the ball at the end of its run, if your child would enjoy that!

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After playing with the balls for a while, we decided to test toy cars.

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These didn’t work quite as well on the ramps, but it did turn the box into a fun little “garage” for a while.

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Tubes and Balls

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I had a few mailing tubes from the post office that I ended up not needing, which prompted this fun morning of play!

To start, I angled the smaller mailing tube into a basket and also added a shorter paper towel tube for variety in height. Veronika immediately loved dropping in ping pong balls, which were the perfect size to roll through the tubes.

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She loved that she could hear the balls rolling down the mailing tube! She also loved parroting me, saying, “Where did it go?”. Then she would answer her own question by lifting the tube to find the balls in the bottom of the basket.

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Being a toddler, she didn’t always stick to the “rules” of course and lifted the tubes out of the basket. She loved just dropping the balls into the tubes right in mid-air!

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I also had a larger mailing tube but we needed to set this one up differently since she couldn’t reach the top of it standing. I angled it off the couch into the basket, and this time we rolled larger tennis balls through it.

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It was like a new discovery for her each time she popped a tennis ball in at the top and watched it appear at the bottom.

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Want to take your tube-rolling fun to a higher level? Try this game off the stairs instead!

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Net Ball

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This super-soft ball is perfect for teaching a toddler to catch and throw. Because it’s literally as soft as cotton, there won’t be any bumps or bruises along the way!

I had a net bag full of onions from the market, and instantly knew I could use it instead of simply throwing it away. Snip the top of the bag open carefully so the rest stays intact.

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Fill with cotton balls until you’ve formed a round ball, then use a twist tie or elastic to seal it shut. I showed Veronika briefly how to kick with it. But as I mentioned, this ball was truly perfect for working on tossing back and forth with her.

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At 22 months, she can’t quite catch a ball yet, but I loved that we introduced the concept and now we know exactly which ball to practice with for future toss sessions.

Fun with Balls

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Today I gave Veronika a game with the easiest set up ever: balls + an empty muffin pan.

Having recently played with pom poms in a muffin tin, I knew she would like the concept. This time, I filled the tins of a standard 12 cup muffin pan with balls of various sizes. I included golf balls, tennis balls, and a few toy sensory balls.

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I deliberately left some of the compartments empty so she could transfer from one to another, making this almost like toddler whack-a-mole. She immediately got busy!

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I also placed a small box to the side so she could gather up the balls if she wanted to, but she preferred moving them either from tin to tin or directly onto the floor.

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She has never really played with tennis balls before, making these the most novel part of the game, and was delighted when she realized they bounce. So after that it became a game of chasing tennis balls all around the first floor of our apartment.

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What simple but pure fun!

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Tube Slide

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If you find yourself with a leftover cardboard tube (think from wrapping paper, or a craft paper roll, or even cardboard mailing tubes), don’t head to the recycle bin! These tubes are the perfect item to entertain a toddler.

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Today I wanted to make the best ball slide for Veronika using the tube from a gift wrap roll. It took three tries before I got it right! For the first version, I set the tube at an angle from the couch so it dangled over a laundry bin.

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She tried a few rolls, but was more interested in just tossing balls into the bin from the floor. So not the best version!

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Then I tried dangling it from the end of the stair railing with tape. Again, the landing point was a laundry basket.

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But it was impossible for her to reach the tube without me holding her, and I wasn’t comfortable letting her toddle up the stairs to try it solo, so this version lost her interest quickly. (You’ll notice she preferred to sit in the laundry basket).

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Thinking fast, I taped the tube to the wall just above her toy bin, which she could safely scamper onto like a stool.

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I showed her how to roll the balls through the shoot from here.

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And she had the perfect advantage of height now to see them land in the laundry bin.

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We have a winner folks! This third version made the best tube slide for this particular toddler. Which version does your child like best? Please share in the comments!

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Big Swings

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Veronika got a little indoor batting practice this morning with a toddler version of T-ball!

For set up, you’ll first need to tie a length of ribbon to any child-sized ball. I liked using her sensory balls with holes in them, since the ribbon looped through easily, but you could also just tape ribbon to a solid ball.

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Now tape the other end of the ribbon above an open doorway. Make sure to use lots of tape so these are secure. Veronika reached up immediately, quite intrigued.

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I handed her a wooden spoon and showed her how to bat at the balls. She was a quick study!

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Whether using her hands or the spoon, it delighted her to see the balls make big swings back and forth.

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She also loved walking through the dangling balls.

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Or holding on to one as she spun and twirled and walked back and forth.

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An alternate title for this post could very well have been “How to entertain your toddler while homeschooling a big sibling”, ha. It kept her so busy while big brother tackled his morning Spanish and English Language Arts!

Hit the Target

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With a little set-up in advance, this is an easy game to help fill a dreary winter day indoors!

While Veronika was napping, I used a hot glue gun to affix Velcro squares (the scratchy side) to several soft golf balls.

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Next, I cut a few simple shapes from felt, like circles, hearts, and triangles. If you’re feeling more ambitious, cut teddy bears or other animal shapes, too! I then used hot glue to attach these to a recycled piece of cardboard.

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When she woke up, I showed her how to toss the balls towards the felt, at which point they stick! She was fascinated.

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It was hard for her to get the concept of putting the balls on herself, preferring to hold the golf balls instead of releasing her grip.

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But she did like pulling them off the Velcro, no doubt intrigued by the tug of resistance.

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I’m going to keep this game around since it’s one that will grow with her. The felt shapes provide a little early learning, and she’ll be able to approach the game differently as her tossing skills improve.

Muffin Tin Color Sort

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Although a toddler at Veronika’s age (14 months old) probably won’t be able to sort colors yet, this activity introduces the idea of color matching, plus includes all sorts of fun elements to play with.

I lined the bottoms of a 6-cup muffin tin with circles of colored paper. Use colored construction paper for this (or in a pinch, you can use marker on white paper for any colors you are missing).

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Next, I set out a rainbow assortment of colored sensory balls. I couldn’t find our purple ball (which is course turned up right after!) so substituted a small purple toy.

Finally, I handed Veronika an ice cream scoop with an eye towards teaching her to transfer the balls from the bucket to the muffin tins. She loved this element of the game…

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…though needless to say her colors weren’t always right.

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She also wanted to move the balls from cup to cup, which left ample opportunity to talk about the pieces of colored paper she revealed and where each ball “should” go.

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Again, this was not meant to be an activity for Veronika to get correct, but rather a great chance to introduce color matching as a concept.