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Sometimes the best toys are non-toys. They're those bits of random objects around the house that can be repurposed for play. After all, don't you know that the best part of a new toy is the box?!
The following is just a few of the activities I've created over the last few years. Some have been more successful than others. They have all been wonderful to offer the children when they need something new and/or interesting and interactive.
1) Coin Drop
This activity is made from a baby oatmeal container and milk jug caps. The bottom of the container is metal and makes a sound when the coins are dropped into it, which has added to the enjoyment. When noise isn't desired, though, I added a piece of felt to the inside. The children have played with this activity so much that the slit in the top is nearly worn out.
Also, this activity pairs well with a tot school unit on the book *Corduroy by Don Freeman. It's a safer alternative to using real coins for little ones.
2) Jingle Bell Socks
This activity has been great for our 0-1 year olds. It is made from a package of infant socks (0-6mo.) and small bells. I placed a single bell in one sock, two bells in another, and three in the third sock (that fourth sock walked away from me and I never found it!). I then sewed up the top of the sock, leaving the cuff intact. The cuff, actually, provides a great place for little hands to hold. Who needs fancy plastic rattles when you have socks?! haha!
3) Foam Bead LacingThe idea of this activity is to practice fine motor skills by lacing the pieces onto the string. It's made from a foam pool noodle and shoe string purchased from the dollar store.
This has been one of our least successful activities. First, the tip of the string was more difficult than expected for them to string through the beads. I think they would have been more successful if the end of the string wasn't so floppy. Or, simply wait until an older age than when I had introduced it to them. Second, if you notice there are bites taken out of the bead pieces. This was the main reason this activity isn't brought out very often and if it is there must be close supervision. I don't care to pick up dozens if small foam bits from the floor or have the activity itself destroyed!
4) Scent Bottles
The children really enjoyed these! These are simply a set of travel bottles within which I added a scented element inside (essential oils, extracts, pieces of herbs or other aromatic plants). The children have enjoyed squeezing the bottles and smelling the various scents!
5) Velcro Sticks
The children call these "sticky sticks." They are simply the largest colored craft sticks and pieces of velcro. These are fantastic for creative play, and we've often brought them in an activity bag for church. We've also used them to create various shapes (triangle, square, rectangle, pentagon etc.). They will hold the shapes up to their faces like frames and giggle.
I'm not sure what you'd call this activity. It consists of an empty container (formerly filled with peppercorns) and cut pieces of pipe cleaners. The idea is to insert the pipe cleaners into the small holes of the lid. It's a great fine motor skill activity!
7) Pom-Pom Drop
This activity is similar to the Coin Drop activity, but easier for younger ones to complete. It's created from an old dairy container. I purchased a value bag of various sized pom-poms from the craft store to accompany it. The nice thing about the container being something ordinary is that I can always get another lid and cut smaller holes for smaller pom-poms. So, it can increase in required fine motor skill as they do.
8) Ribbon Pull Box
This is also a favorite! I simply poked holes in a small box and inserted stripes of fabric (could do ribbon, but fabric strips were what I had on hand). The fabric piece are strung through two holes on different sides of the box. When one side is pulled the other goes in, and vise versa. We have played with this activity so many times. The children really enjoy when I add silly sound effects when they pull on one end causing the other end to move as well.
Like I said, these were created over the course of the last three years. I don't have near as much opportunity to create activities these days. It's nice that once created, we have them to play with for the next few years. Although slower, I still enjoy adding to our collection. It's so fun to offer the children activities that promote skill building and exploration (not to mention, free reused materials!). This sort of thing satisfies my creative spirit.
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