My son is 13 months and, though he’s just on the cusp of toddlerhood, he’s definitely not a baby anymore (sigh). He’s officially toddling and loves exploring the world around him and I am officially looking for more age-appropriate activities to do.
If you’ve followed me for very long, you know that I like to do things that are fun and easy. Also, inexpensive is always a bonus. I have three activities we have done recently that are fun, easy and cheap (or free, really)!
Water & Dyed Ice
Materials Needed: Water, Food Coloring, Ice Tray, Saran Wrap, Water Bottle, Plastic Food Storage Containers or Baking Pans
Most families have food coloring on hand (if not, you can always use plain ice). As you know, food coloring can get messy – to make it less of a mess when you mix the water, you can add a few drops of your desired color to a water bottle, shake it up and pour into ice trays. I made two colors – blue and green. Put the trays in the freezer (like, you need me to tell you how to make ice…) and save them for a day that you’re looking for something to keep your little one busy (which is basically any day). Don’t forget to cover the tray with saran wrap to avoid a dyed freezer.
For the fun part… I put my son in one of his kiddie pools and placed a small baking pan with and a plastic food storage container, both filled with water, inside the pool. Then I dropped ice cubes in the water. I put a few in the pool, too. He had a blast playing with the ice and water. Not only is this activity fun but it is great sensory and learning play. Make sure you talk about the how the ice feels (cold!), the colors of the ice, the melting ice, etc. This is especially nice on a hot day!
Materials needed: Rice, Food Coloring, Paper Plates (much easier for clean up), Empty (and dry) Water Bottle(s), Gloves (Optional), Funnel or Funnel Like Object, Blanket, towel or sheet to work on (also much easier for clean up)
We have had sensory bottles since my son was 3 months old and they continue to be a favorite. In fact, his pasta filled water bottle is frequently the “toy” he chooses to take with him when we go out. Now that he’s a little older, though, I can (somewhat) include him in the process of making the bottles. I recently had a cell phone fiasco, which resulted in setting my phone in a bowl of rice.
I didn’t want all that rice to go to waste, so I decided to make more sensory bottles. It was just before 4th of July, so I decided to dye some of the rice red and blue. Before the dying began, I placed some rice on a plate and let my son play with it for a minute or two (strictly, supervised as he’s still likes to put everything in his mouth).
To dye the rice, I separated the rice on three separate plates (red, blue and plain for white) and dropped 3-4 drops of each color. I mixed the rice with my hands but you could use gloves if you want. A mistake I made was that I didn’t give time for the rice to dry. Next time, I would wait a few minutes before placing it in the bottle.
You will definitely want to use something to funnel the rice. If you don’t have an actual funnel, paper rolled up would work. I used a breast shield. I just taped it to the bottle and it was perfect!
I layered the rice red, white then blue but they’re all going to get mixed up anyway so layering doesn’t really matter. Though, my son is still a little young to participate much, he really enjoyed watching me make the bottles and was even more delighted with the end result. Older tots, could definitely get involved with making the bottles.
If you keep everything on your sheet, towel or blanket clean up isn’t too bad.
Pet Store Trip
This idea will require you to leave the house (which for me is an ordeal because I have to change out of my pajamas) but it is still a very easy and fun activity for toddlers. My son loved walking around the store and looking at the animals. He was especially enamored with the birds and fish. He wasn’t so taken by the cats, he preferred to watch the people looking at the cats.
Since I went through the trouble of putting on clothes and makeup, afterward we walked to Babies R Us and I treated him to a pouch (that’s like ice cream in our house). It was a nice mommy-son date, with very little cost or trouble.
What activities do you like to do with your toddler? (Please, I need more ideas!)