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$4 Fine Motor Activity for Toddlers

I frequent the local Dollar Tree looking for items that I can use to create activities for X. I have pretty great luck, honestly. In fact there have been many times where I find items that I purchased somewhere else for much more then a dollar. I go in with an open mind and maybe a few items I’m particularly looking for. It takes me a while. It’s a weekend activity for when my husband is home with X and I have an hour to wonder around and try create activities with what they currently have available. I really enjoy it. It allows me to use my creativity and imagination and I always go home with at least a few activities for X.

This is one of X’s all time favorite fine motor activities.

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All you need is:

  • Sugar shaker (mine is glass with a metal top, pretty nice for the dollar store! But plastic would work just fine),
  • Small food pics (here is where you can be creative. Matchsticks with the end cut off, q-tips, straws… anything that will fit through the holes of the shaker)
  • A small container to put the pics in
  • Plastic tray

That’s it. I found all of these items at Dollar Tree. In fact the container for the pics was a 2 pack and the other now holds his crayons.

X carries the tray from the shelf to the table. Removes all the items from the tray. Opens the container filled with pics and proceeds to place each pic through the holes of the sugar shaker. For now I open the shaker and take the pics out so he can start again, but eventually that will be an added challenge to the activity. when he’s done he puts everything back on the tray and places it back on the shelf. He goes to this multiple times a day. It really is one of his favorites.

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Letting Go

Before I was a mom my house was spotless and meticulously decorated. I baked bread, I made gourmet desserts. I threw dinner and brunch and Christmas parties. I wore makeup, I accessorized; darn, who are we kidding, I got dressed every day. These things mattered to me. It’s amazing how quickly priorities change, whether by choice or by force.

Now, my house is clean but cluttered. There is always a toy to be tripped over or creatively placed clean diapers strewn across the floor (do all kids love throwing their clean diapers around?).  I work hard to get a healthy dinner on the table and trust me, it’s not gourmet. If company comes over I repeatedly apologize for my house being messy and the thought of having more then 2 people over at once, throws me into a panic. Some days yoga pants and the t shirt I wore yesterday is the best I can do.

Up until recently, I’ve struggled with this shift. I’ve always managed my time well and completed tasks quickly. I assumed I would be one of those moms who was immaculately dressed with makeup and baby in a homemade bow tie. That I would still have time to throw parties and make desserts and make cute craft projects in my spare time. But I’m not. X has always been a high needs kid. For the first 3 months he would only sleep if he was on top of me. After that he would only sleep if I was next to him. Baby cuddles and iphone games became a way of life for me.

Now, he untidies our home more quickly then I tidy it. He likes to have me sit near him or engage with him while he plays. My priorities now center around creating stimulating, skill building, Montessori based activities for him. Making sure he’s getting the very best food I can serve him. Simple, comfortable clothes are his wardrobe; they allow him to play and if they get muddy or covered in finger paint, I don’t care. In fact, the same goes for me. Simple and comfortable is my wardrobe as well because I’m chasing him around the playground and yogurt or almond butter invariably gets wiped on me at some point through out the day. Engaging him and his interests, spending quality time together and showing him the world are now my priorities. And to accomplish those, I need to let go of my previous priorities, and that’s ok. He’s a happy, well fed, smart, energetic, loving, curious, outgoing, beautiful child. And that is the best thing I could ever hope to accomplish.

But I need to remember myself, too. Doing things I love and relaxing are important too. I can’t completely loose myself and expect to be the best mom, wife and woman I can be. I forget this often. It’s ok to drink a cup of coffee and read a good book while X is napping. The dishes will still be there later, I can take a few moments to draw or sew or create in the few hours a day I have to myself. It’s ok to take a nap during the day when we’ve had back to back to back nights where X wakes every 15 minutes. WE are more important then a spotless home or fresh baked bread. 

And sometimes, a game of peek-a-boo under a blanket, is the most important thing in the world I could be doing.

peeka1 peeka2 

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Toddler Sorting Activity for Early Math Skills

I think X is going through a “sensitive period” for order. Montessori speaks about children being more receptive to building different skills at certain times. She referred to these times as “sensitive periods”. If we as parents, teachers or care givers can observe when these periods are happening, we can provide tools and activities to maximize them. Forcing the Bloom made a great post here about observing our children. I have yet to take notes on my observations of X, but it’s a GREAT idea! I do however reflect on what I’ve noticed about his habits and play to better provide him with projects and Montessori inspired work.

This activity is one of those. X helps put away his toys and activities; if normal things in his environment are out of place he fixes them. I ask him to assist me in picking up, carrying in groceries and cleaning the house. He very obviously enjoys the meaningful work. Sorting items is not only supporting a need for order and fine motor development, but it is also early math work. Not only is it great for building skills, but it’s easy to set up and very inexpensive.

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I purchased this egg tray for a dollar. I pulled these wood pieces from a set of building blocks we have and VIOLA! 

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I encourage X to place the blocks in order as opposed to randomly. Sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn’t. To further the math experience and add a language component, we count as we place each block in it’s spot. This could also be used as a great matching set up when he gets older. Colored dots, shapes or numbers could easily be applied to take this activity to the next level.

Stay tuned, I will be making a post later this week about the practical life activities we’ve been incorporating into our days!

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Quiet Time- Fine Motor, Sensory Bags

I think as parents we are always looking for a few extra minutes. A few minutes to start dinner, throw in a load of laundry, vacuum the floor…drink a cup of coffee. I love playing with and teaching X- but occasionally I need a few minutes.
Not only does this project buy you a few minutes (more like 20 minutes if they love it as much as X does) but it explores fine motor and sensory play, and doesn’t make a mess!! Too good to be true you say? Well here it is!

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I used:
-a plastic zip top bag (I would suggest the thick, heavy duty kind. If not, then no promises on the no mess part lol)
-vegetable oil
-tempera or craft paint (in the bag pictured I watered down the paint. In a second bag I used straight craft paint. Both work and provide different results)
-beads, foam pieces, glitter, cut up straws, etc (anything small you’ve got hanging around. This is a great opportunity to use up odds and ends from other projects).
-a thin piece of scrap cardboard (pizza box, the back piece of a notebook or sketchbook, etc)
-duct tape

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So, all you do is put in the oil, add paint and beads, etc. and zip it up.
I got as much air out as possible before zipping it closed. If there were additional air bubbles I laid the bag down flat, unzipped a small portion of the bag while holding the edge up (so it doesn’t spill) and worked the bubble towards the opening (it’s a lot easier then it sounds, I promise!). I was worried the trapped air would make it more likely to pop.
Then I tapped down all of the sides to the cardboard. The edges are the weak points in the bag, so by taping it down you’re reinforcing it. I used the cardboard because it gave it stability and makes it less likely to break. You could also tape it to your table top. Then I let X have a blast! And he did! It squishes, the paint moved away from the oil, the beads and such move as you poke it and are fun to try and grab…

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I hope your littles love this project as much as X did. And promise me, use a few of those minutes it buys you to relax! Me time is important too! This provides guilt free me time because your little one is still learning and having fun! This is also great to take to restaurants! Or the doctors office, anywhere that requires waiting quietly.