101 things to do with my child, crafts, motherhood, parenting

Toddlers, and toys, and crafts! oh my!

While my son is still perfectly content with amusing himself ‘driving’ cars, reading books, and doing incredible acts of imagination with cardboard boxes as they are alternately cars, laundry machines, cribs for stuffed animals, robots [and he gets very annoyed when I try to use them to, you know, pack] he also appreciates toys more than ever before. In our new house I’m planning to convert the formal living room into a play area for him and plan to stock it full of things to help grow his creativity and imagination. I’m not sure yet what will go there, but am planning to follow the guidelines in Brain Rules For Baby and provide tons of opportunity for creative free play with blocks, a bookshelf, musical instruments, and role playing toys of some sort [though he does role play with adult sized brooms which seems to work just fine]. I also plan to have a sandbox outside and a small inflatable wading pool and sidewalk chalk.

The only issue is, he doesn’t have a lot of toys at this point, toys are expensive, and most of the toys I have bought for him, like his activity cube, get played with for one second and then quickly forgotten. So while I’m considering adding a toy kitchen, a train track, and other toys into this play area, I’m wondering if he only lights up when they’re other people’s toys and will be less compelled if they’re his.

I’d also love to do more activities and crafts with him. I’m a touch nervous since he’s not in daycare and getting the structured learning, he might be missing out on something and I’d love to add more activities and crafts to my repertoire. I’ve been googling away to no avail as most of my searches lead me to printable pages [which, even as a teacher I abhorred ditto worksheets] and sites more filled with ads than ideas. I did find a few like this one with a handful of ideas, and this one which has a few things I could do but making a full-sized functional video arcade out of cardboard boxes? That aint ever gonna me. I’m looking for simple but fun craft and activities like feeding bread to the ducks at the lake, painting pebbles, making sand art or stringing macaroni on a necklace. I have a nice long list of 101 things I want to do with my child, but I’d love more ideas particularly of the crafting indoor everyday kind.

What sort of toys does/did your toddler love the most? If you have a play area set aside how did you set it up? What sorts of goodies lie within? And what sort of activities and crafts do you do with your toddler in and around the home that help them grow, are fun, and don’t involve printable worksheets? Any websites you recommend? Any advice much appreciated!

21 thoughts on “Toddlers, and toys, and crafts! oh my!”

  1. I love our playroom! It has posters on the wall (learning stuff, ABCs, 123s, sign language, days of the week, etc), a large calendar that we update monthly and daily, a kid kitchen, books, number foams, blocks of all sorts, musical instruments, an easel (both chalk and dry erase), and a table and chairs. (Their school desks are actually in the living room right now). They love the room and so do I!


  2. We have a playroom and one of the things I've found that *I* love the most is storage. Tuck some toys away. There's nothing better than taking a toy you've had forever that's been tucked in a rarely-opened toy box, etc. and to see the wonder in your child's eyes as they reach for the “new” toy. I've found that my daughter is easily overwhelmed by Too.Much.Stuff so her playroom looks sparse, but there's all kinds of storage so that opening one drawer or box keeps her focused and interested.


  3. Michele, thanks! Those are great ideas! how much did it cost to set up your play area? I'm trying to figure out my budget. And an easal with dry erase is a great idea as I've been afraid of markers all over my wall! I will have to e-mail you about your home schooling!

    Shawna, thanks for the tips! šŸ™‚ did you get your storage units from Ikea? I've been trying to figure out which ones to get.


  4. Hen has a corner of the family room that's got most of his gear in it–a box of wooden blocks (that he's never been excited about) a wooden train (that he doesn't care about) a box of assorted matchbox cars, balls, plastic dinosaurs, beads, puzzles, etc. that he loves 'dumping and cleaning'. A few dress-up things, hats, mittens. A box of crayons & paper/coloring books/notebooks. A xylophone, a set of handbells. But honestly? He'd rather do whatever I'm doing–'hepping' is his favorite game. Unloading the dishwasher, helping me cook, sweeping, gardening, he's RIGHT there, with his hands in the middle of it.

    I've started to think I need to find some more formal'activities' for him to do/learn/experience, but haven't gotten around to it yet. Can't wait to see what other folks come up with!


  5. Michele, thanks for your homeschooling blog! I'm now on a researching kick on montessori, THAT has tons of great ideas!!!

    Susan, how does he help with cooking? W REALLY wants to help with cooking but yeah, um, hot splattering and all! šŸ™‚ The links I shared are pretty good and Michele's blog with links to Montessori education also very helpful with formal activities!


  6. that's a tough one. for one thing, if you need more toys, all you have to do is throw a birthday party for waleed, louise got so many presents at her last birthday that i'm still unsure of what to do with all of them. i definitely recommend the kitchen as you said, some musical instruments, multiple kinds of blocks, like foam blocks and duplos, louise really enjoys her ryan's room toys (http://www.growingtreetoys.com/brand/ryans-room) and you can get all sorts of pieces to go with the dolls, like a bathroom with a toilet which is great when you are potty training. maybe an aisle to do art on?


  7. Kate, so Louise does play with the kitchen? I remember when you got that for her! Thanks for the link and advice on foam blocks and duplos! We were going to throw a party but we're moving around his birthday so I don't know if it will ultimately happen šŸ˜¦ Also, I feel like at birthdays, they get a lot of toys but not necessarily ones you'd pick for them, did you find that to be the case?


  8. This is my favorite list for toys:

    We have a lego table (that works with duplos right now). He'll stack the duplos and LOVES putting them in the drawers and taking them back out again. (and wow – that was a gift from Nana. I had no idea it was that expensive!) You can flip the top for coloring or snacks.


    We also have the laugh and learn kitchen. It's very small, though. He doesn't play with it as much as he did when it was new.


  9. she does play with her kitchen but not much, i think that may be partially due to it's location and also she might be a little young yet. i do find that some people buy whatever they want, but most include receipts and a lot of people will ask you what he needs or wants, which is a good opportunity to get the things you actually want him to have.


  10. I have a toy lift area upstairs. The kids don't stay in there. They want to do what I'm doing or be near me. My boys seem to love the kitchen play area toy though we don't have one.
    My elder loved from 2 to present- play dough, Legos, boxes, painting, dumping glitter on paint. And his all time favorite- a box of miscellaneous wires, old phones, etc. he spends hours with the wire box. We have hardly bought any toys- we just encourage them to use imagination and play with things we already have in and outside (pots/pans/gardening stuff/rocks/boxes/old electronics/our existing musical instruments/listen to music on one of our old iPhones, etc).


  11. I wouldn't get a lot of toys. Your son seems to have a lot of imagination, and I think the best way to nurture that is to “oblige” him to keep using it.
    Get some Lego or Duplo, play dough, puzzles, paint/crayons etc. A big favourite at our house, probably since my older was your son's age, is a little tea set. Add to that any cups and tools straight out of the kitchen she could get a hold of šŸ˜‰ I always wanted to get a kitchen, but so far, my hubby has vetoed it because of our temp housing situation, which makes sense. I'll probably get it once we've found a house, but in a way, it almost seems unnecessary.
    My daughter also likes simple dress-up, i.e. she'll take scarves, hats and sunglasses, or a small blanket as an “umbrella”.
    As for setup, we have the Ikea storage solution with the drawers, and I really like it. I've added a couple of basket for thinks like books etc. And a table (Ikea as well) where she paints, draws and “writes”.
    For projects, I would recommend lots of sensory stuff … finger painting, water play etc. Montessori is a good source for ideas.
    Quite honestly, the only area where I could really see my daughter having an advantage by being in structured care is independence. I think as moms we tend to underestimate how much they can do by themselves. Such things as getting dressed and putting on shoes for example. But there again, Montessori has interesting leads.
    Other than that, let him help you. It's fun for them and they learn a lot. Just takes a lot of patience sometimes.
    Sorry, this got very long, hope it's helpful.


  12. Cheryl, thanks for the links and info! I never considered a duplo until this post so now I will and YES that is expensive! I will be on the hunt for used versions! Thanks!! šŸ™‚

    Kate, well that's good to know, we're moving around his birthday time, but maybe next year!

    Leigh Ann, thanks for all this great advice! And on the FB page, I'm bad about checking into facebook but I got the e-mails with all the great ideas like decorating cakes and cupcakes, love it! Thanks!!

    Natalie, yes youre definitely right, too many toys can inhibit creativity, I'm looking more for what it sounds like you hae, things to help them pretend WITH like play dough, crayons, etc. Love the dress pu ideas, and having a table for him to sit at, and we're looking at the ikea storage solution as well, although we might get a toy chest too for the big cumbersome toys. Are you SAHM also?


  13. That sounds fun! I want to get a little Ikea table for Wiggles to draw and color on. He loves coloring!

    We don't have a play area at home, but the way Wiggles' daycare room is set up sounds a lot like what you're thinking. And if I WERE to set one up at home, this is what I'd like to do:

    They have an area with a rug and pillows (bright! fun!) that's next to books that are on a low low shelf so the little ones can get them out and read.

    Then they have low shelves that have cubes they can put bins in with the toys. I've observed many kids enjoying taking the toys out and also trying to put them back in! Motor skills!

    They actually use these low shelves (about 3 feet high) to divide up the reading space from the table space.

    And then they do have a kitchen and a bed and dolls and dress up stuff in another corner. To be honest, I don't see many kids there!

    The last corner has blocks. Big foam blocks, and harder plastic ones that make cubes. The kids LOVE climbing all over them, sitting on them, bouncing them, stacking them, knocking them over.

    The easel is a good idea! I bet lots of fun would be had there.

    I agree with the recommendations to keep any additional toy purchases simple. Play-doh, blocks, coloring stuff, and bubbles!

    Finally, music! My little guy loves dancing and they have a radio at his school and we have one at home. At home he can turn it on himself and loves to do it and start dancing.


  14. I'm a temporary SAHM so to speak. We get one year maternity leave here in Canada. So I'll be home with my two daughter until next fall, or probably until the end of the year because we only have a daycare spot for the younger one for December.



  15. Forgot to add, we used to have a toy chest. It was meant for the big items but somehow EVERYTHING tended to end up in there. It felt like a mess to me and my daughter didn't play with many of her toys because she could not find them. It's so much better now with the storage system.



  16. Banshee FANTASTIC ideas! Thank you!!!

    Natalie, thanks for the tip on the toychest, will have to keep that in mind, and how lovely to get a year of maternity leave- that is absolutely perfect.

    Stacey- thanks!!!


  17. OK, let's see. I have a 17-month-old girl. Here are the things she likes best these days: 1) a set of plastic animals, and I don't mean 200 of them. She has a cow, a sheep, a pig, a donkey, a horse, and various dogs. These have good play value because she likes learning animal sounds, and often sees animals in her books. 2) A selection of her favorite kiddie books. 3) A large plastic colorful toy that makes multiple songs and musical bits. Now, does she have ONE SINGLE play area? No — she has a number of small mini-play areas thru the house. A corner of my room, a corner of the kitchen, a corner of her siblings' room, etc. Mostly she knows which toys to expect in certain places. Also, I must say that 90 percent of what she plays with are things that belong(ed) to her older siblings (of which she has 3). I frequently take care to keep small, dangerous items out of her reach. If I could give you just one piece of advice, beyond safety considerations, it is this: Try not to store things TOO well. If they are stored in plastic bins up high where your child can't reach them, for example, they may as well have been thrown away for good, because your child will quickly forget about them. Then, of course, be flexible and try to do some toy rotation from time to time. See if you can trade some stuff with cousins or other friends with small children. Good luck!


  18. Forgot to add: Here are some things I would NOT recommend you let your toddler have free access to: Bubbles, pens & pencils, makeup. Bubble liquid will inevitably spill where you don't want it to. Pens and pencils will be used for drawing on bedspreads and walls the moment your back is turned. Makeup could be eaten. For your sanity, bring these items out only when you are going to be there to supervise!!


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