We've recently stumbled on an Instagram account called Busy Toddler, run by a stay-at-home mom, Susie Allison, who is a former preschool teacher. It’s a treasure trove of preschool play activities where the ideas are educational and make use of materials that you already have at home. Plus, they don’t need much prep work either!
“When my oldest was a tiny toddler, I loved doing projects with him, but just wasn’t seeing ‘my kind’ of activities out there on the Internet. My kind of activities being easy, quick, and most of all, free,” she said on her blog BusyToddler.com. That's a big amen from us, Susie!
“I aim to find activities where you probably already own all the supplies and spend no more than five minutes ‘prepping,” she added. As a mom of three -- Sam, age 4, Kate, 3, and 7-month-old Baby Matt -- Susie shared that she wanted to keep her children busy while learning at the same time so that she could have a break.
“And by break, of course I mean a chance to vacuum, unload the dishwasher, or start dinner,” she said. Yes, we totally get it.
Susie describes her activities perfectly as “simple, fast ways to keep little hands engaged, active, and learning.” Here are just a handful of her activities on BusyToddler.com that we love:
Kids love stickers, and here's an activity that takes advantage. All you need is to grab a pack of dot stickers and buy matching colored paper to go with it. Stick up the colored paper on the wall, give the sticker dots to your kiddo and tell her to match and sort them into colors.
So your tot doesn't have trouble peeling away the sticker dots, "the trick is to remove the surrounding white part before giving them the sheet -- does that make sense?" said Susie. Her own tot loved it so much she breezed through six sheets and asked for more stickers the days afterward.
Don't throw away that cereal box yet. Here's a fantastic activity you can do with it: turn it into a DIY puzzle! First, make a tape outline of your recycled package. It will serve as a guide for your child. Then, cut the box front up into pieces. It's that simple, and your tot will love it.
"Definitely consider your kiddo when choosing how many pieces to cut," said Susie. It's a great activity for kids who are learning about the alphabet and for developing visual perceptual skills.
Here's another quick one that makes use of the magical sticker dots. For this, Susie taped a long piece of paper on the floor and drew a line down the center that was part straight, curly and zigzag. "I gave Sam (3) a pack of these dots and told him his mission was to cover the line with the dots. He had a blast doing this and has since asked to replay the "sticker line game thing" several times."
This one is for your child who already knows his ABCs. It's an activity that matches lowercase letters with their corresponding upper case letters. Simply write down big letters on a long piece of paper and scribble small letters on Post-Its (another craft tool kids love). "Each letter was duplicated about 3 times but I didn't use every letter in the alphabet," said Susie, as the upper and lower case is the same for some letters like S and V.
You can hand your kiddo the stack of letters or better still to stick them up in different areas of the room or house so he can have fun searching and matching.
Basically, a sensory bin is a big container that's designed to stimulate your child's senses. It's visually appealing as well as fun to touch and play. Fill a shallow but wide tub with beans, for example, and place a few cars, buckets and cups in there. You'll be surprised at how long it can entertain your tot. (Note: Make sure your little one is out of the put-this-in-my-mouth phase before trying this out!)
This one is something you can prep for when you're about to leave the house with your high-energy kiddo. In an empty baby wipes container, Susie has fit small cars and animals, a box of crayons, a deck of cards and pages from a coloring book. "This is our restaurant survival kit and it is my saving grace," she said. "It might seem random but the container itself is a fabulous toy - they can hide things in it, open and shut it, and slide things through the slot."