10 activities for little ones and busy mamas

Toddler making a shape on white tabel with coloured Popsicle sticks

Activities, activities. Kids love them and so do parents. I get so much much joy when I see one of my two little ones engaged in an activity where they are actually quiet and focused. Not to mention time! I get time. Time to fold laundry or clean up or get started on dinner.

Toddlers and pre-schoolers really benefit from focused activities. I prefer the Montessori way in our home and have seen so many great results from incorporating some of Maria Montessori’s principles into our activities.

Here are 10 activities that you can easily put together and introduce to your little one so you get a few minutes free to get that chicken into the Instant pot or chop those vegetables. šŸ™‚

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1.Threading

toddler threading beads on brown shoe lace

This activity is so simple to put together. All you need are some shoe laces and some wooden beads. Depending on the age of your child, you can customize this activity to suit their level. For example, for toddlers maybe use thick string and cut up toilet roll inserts and for an older child you could use the beads but have them thread them in alternating colours or up to a specific number.

2. Colour Sorting

Another easy activity to put together is a colour sorting activity. Colour sorting helps little ones learn colours, their names and is considered a developmental milestone.

Some materials you could use are:

  • Coloured popsicle sticks, or
  • Coloured balls, or
  • Coloured cardstock or paper cut into squares, or
  • Coloured counters (this could work well for older children)

You could use containers for each colour or just have them group them together on a mat on the floor.

3. Matching

Ah matching. My eldest daughter starting matching items on her own when she was around 2. It’s fascinating to watch children play. They develop uniquely and differently and when they focus on a task it’s hard to pull them away. Matching activities are really good and one item I like to use are socks.

Matching socks is easy to put together and a fun project for your little one. Simply gather a few socks from around the house and place them in a basket. Take one out and then place the matching one next to it as an example.

Some other simple household objects you could use are:

  • gloves
  • cutlery
  • small cloths (like hand towels, napkins and washcloths)

4. Stickers

Stickers are good if your child is a little older.

Toddler sticking stickers on large white paper with lines

If the activity is focused on fine motor skills andĀ having the child learn to pull each sticker away from the paper, then handing them a few sheets is all you need to do. But, if you want to give extra focus to the activity, you could:

  • have him/her stick coloured stickers in groups of each colour, or
  • draw straight and squiggly lines and have him/her stick them down following the line, or
  • draw a simple pictureĀ  like a flower or a truck and have your child sticks the stickers along the lines to make the picture

5. Magnets

Toddler making house with magnetic building blocks

Magnets are fun for little ones. My little ones have some magnetic building blocks that they sometimes like to stick on the fridge. We also like to use magnetic alphabet letters that they stick on a mini whiteboard and sometimes also end up on our fridge :).

You could use:

6. Stacking

Stacking blocks are really good for little ones. Got some spare cardboard boxes lying around? Turn them into stacking boxes! Did you know that stacking actually improves fine motor skills and early language development? They learn things like grasping and releasing, colours and shapes, spatial awareness and size; both visually and audibly through the language we speak to them. It’s pretty amazing!

We have some stacking toys we use like this Rainbow Stacker. But you could also use other objects from around the house or in nature.

Some stacking material ideas you could use are:

  • cardboard boxes (in different sizes)
  • paper cups/plastic cups
  • flat stones (in different sizes)
  • wooden curtain rings on a paper towel holder

7. A sensory bag/basket

I first discovered sensory bags and baskets when learning about the Montessori method. It’s a wonderful way to introduces babies and toddlers to their environment and the world around them. I especially like how Montessori emphasizes the use of natural objects in educating children through their senses.

Sensory bags or baskets are simply a collection of 5 to 10 items of different objects for little ones to discover. They can be themed or not, it’s completely up to you. The sky is the limit for what you could put in.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • kitchen utensils
  • toiletry items (like a washcloth, a large baby brush, and maybe a wooden toothbrush)
  • fabric of different shapes and textures
  • Farm animals/ Sea creatures/ Safari animals
  • Musical instruments

Themed ideas:

  • Seasons
  • Shapes
  • Colours
  • Alphabet letter (focusing on one letter with other objects that begin with that letter)
  • Numbers
  • Family members

8. Pouring

child pouring beans from one jug into another on colourful tray

Pouring is another fine motor skill that children start developing from a very young age. Each child is different and some may gravitate to something like this early or later on. Either way, it’s a great activity for little ones.Ā I like to keep this activity to a tray or wide box so any spills stay in that area instead of all over the floor (or room). Yes, we’ve had chickpeas all over our living room floor at one time or another :).

For this activity you will need:

  • 2 small jugs
  • a tray or box
  • pouring materials like sand, beans, pasta or water

9. Velcro popsicle sticks

Purple popsicle stick with velcro stuck on either end

Ever heard of velcro? Sticking and peeling something over and over and over again? That’s one way to keep a little one entertained for sure. Now try sticking some Velcro on each end of a Popsicle stick and you have something that may give you a good amount of time that we mamas always need.

Velcro Popsicle stick shapes. It might not be a “thing” and I did make up that name but it’s fun and very engaging! They can be made into different shapes or just stuck together to make lines. There are so many possibilities!

One of the best parts though is that It’s also an easy DIY activity that’s inexpensive to make.

Here is what you need to make this:

  • Coloured Popsicle sticks
  • velcro (the one that peels and sticks to surfaces)
  • scissors

Directions:

  1. Cut small pieces of velcro so they fit the width of the stick
  2. stick the velcro on either end of the stick (one side soft, the other textured)
  3. repeat as on as many sticks as you want (the more the better!)

10. Shoe lacing

A piece of card shaped like a shoe with holes next to a blue and orange shoe lace

Shoe lacing is another one that’s easy to make. It’s also a great way to introduce toddlers to how to tie a shoe lace. I like that it can also be used a simple lacing cards. I like to start with simple lacing cards then move on to the shoe lace and then tying the ends.

To make this you will need:

  • card (shaped like a shoe or just some cut out squares)
  • a few shoe laces
  • a single hole puncher

Directions:

  1. Cut your card down to whatever shape you want
  2. Punch holes around the card
  3. Introduce your little one to the activity by demonstrating the shoe lace going in and out of each hole

Phew! That was a long list! I hope these help free up some of your precious time! Let me know in the comments if you try any of these!

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