Monday, April 27, 2009

As most of you know, our family includes two adorable little kids and a beta fish named peanut butter. Most of the time, I find myself tangled up in some activity focused on containing…err, I mean entertaining my energetic preschooler.

Since I often focus on my preschooler, this entry is dedicated to activities for our younger and more often sleeping (hopefully!) members of the family.

Our little creeper, crawlers, and toddlers are busy exploring the world through sensory learning. They incorporate every experience they are exposed to by sight, touch, smell, sound, and taste. They keep us on our toes as they explore everything they can find and sometimes it includes things we wish they hadn’t found and quickly put it into their mouth....or ears, or up even up their nose!

Our little explorers require a high level of energy & enthusiasm as they begin to learn everything they can about the world around them.

Babies are beginning to put together the world as a big picture: family & home, day and night, sun, moon, stars, inside, outside, trees, flowers, animals, the zoo, and the farm, etc.

Everything you do is an opportunity to explore their world using their senses to define and develop their vocabulary. Babies learn through reading and singing. It’s very important to show them an item, touch the item, and feel the texture. Can baby see it? Can baby hide the item and find it? Can baby smell it?

It’s important to remember a few things about this age that will make a craft or activity more fun:

  • Babies and Toddlers wiggle a lot!
  • They try to eat their crafts! Taste is one of their way’s to explore and learn.
  • Their attention span is about 5 minutes. Ours is about 12. It’s why we have commercials.
  • What’s important are the words you use and the time you spend with them. You’re helping them learn more about their world through a new experience.
  • Toddlers can’t do activities on their own yet, but they can do a lot of things with your help!
  • A 15 month old can crumple tissue paper and glue it down where you tell him/her.

Here are a few general ideas for craft time with early toddlers:
A paper plate can be made into a lion’s mane with yellow and orange tissue or you can draw a bee and fill in lines with yellow tissue paper.

Toddlers can also help you gather leaves in the fall and glue them down to a piece of Red Construction Paper with red or orange tissue paper or curly pieces of ribbon to fill blank spaces.

In the spring, they can gather small flowers with you and glue them down on green paper.

Use black construction paper and have children help you glue down pieces of yellow tissue paper to show stars and draw in the moon for them.

In the winter, young toddlers can use cotton balls to make a snow man and help them draw in the arms and face or find small twigs for the arms.

For learning about the sky, use cotton ball clouds on a piece of light blue paper and draw in the sun. For the over ambitious, you might even use real grass for the bottom or your art work!

Toddlers will eat finger paints (or most crafts actually!) and it’s also very messy. If you’re up for it, toddlers will love finger painting with vanilla pudding.

A few keepsake ideas I’ve done in the past with small children have been tracing hand prints, cutting them out in red and green and making them into a wreath in a circle shape.

I’ve also used shoeprints for butterfly wings. I got this idea from a framed photo my parents had from a mother’s day out program I attended when I was 2.5 years old. The school used wall paper sample books for the wings. Any colored paper will work for this project.

With older toddlers I've often had them begin helping with baking projects. For chocolate chip cookies, I measure everything out before we start and put things in separate bowls. When it's time for a certain ingredient, I let the young child dump that ingredient in. It's very simple for small children. When they get to about two years old, I've let them crack eggs in a small bowl and pour the egg into a recipe. This allows me to take egg shells out before they go into cookies!

Remember your early toddler is soaking up the world around! Have fun and enjoy this wonderful time!

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