I often get asked what the “right” time is to start playing with our tots in a more structured, focused way.
I don’t have an exact answer, since every child is so different, but for us, the window for learning really opened around 14 months of age. Naturally, kiddos are learning everyday from their surroundings, but M was just over a year old when she started craving activities that we’d sit down and do together.
Here are some early learning activities that we started with and both loved.
Fabric stores sell felt on a bolt and I just covered a cork board with some. I cut out a ton of shapes in different colors and put them out for M. She can create pictures and we can hone language development by telling stories and naming objects.
So much fun! Grab a photo of a family member and cut out their body. Use some spray adhesive and attach to a magnet sheet. Cut out. Repeat for all family members and friends and you suddenly have a whole cast of characters to play with, name, and create games with.
Dot Stampers are relatively low mess and relatively high excitement! Even matching the lids to the correct bottle color is a learning activity!
Feeling more adventurous? Spread a towel, squirt some paint on a plate, and let your little artist delight in this sensory play! Make sure you have a box of wet wipes ready!
If you have an empty can of Puffs (or similar canister, like Pringles), then you have a fine motor skills activity. Use an knife and cut a slit in the lid and provide some poker chips, buttons, or coins. Have your tot carefully drop the items through the opening, delighting in the satisfying “plunk” it makes as it hits the bottom!
Ice cube trays are so versatile! Grab a pile of tiny toys or objects (pompoms, chunky beads, buttons, feathers) and an ice cube tray. Help your tot sort by color into each tiny compartment!
Did you know that paint chips are free?! Home Depot carries the Disney line, which means that you can go in and take a few sample colors in the fun Mickey shape! Make it a matching game or, when your tot gets older, try it as a memory game!
Golf Tees and Styrofoam
I promise you this: Your tot will love this activity! Grab a block of styrofoam at the dollar store (The green kind is floral foam. It’s much softer and will make a much bigger mess. The white stuff is less messy but more firm, requiring a little more muscle). Put some tees in a bowl and have your little one carefully push each tee into the foam. Ready to clean up? Use that pincer grip to pull them out!
Hopefully some of these have inspired you to try them out! M is now almost 5 and still loves all of these activities, so it’s never too late to start!