I am always looking for ways my two year old son can learn in a fun way. I would never consider myself a “Pinterest mom”, but I’ve found a few creative, DIY “toys” that definitely make me feel like one. These “toys” provide a variety of learning opportunities. Additionally, they are:
- Low cost
- Fun for both boys and girls
- Useful for multiple ages
- Great for quiet play
With the holidays on the way, I hope you’ll find the ideas extra useful.
My son loves water. To him, washing is not about getting rid of germs but about playing and getting wet. On a warm day, I can occupy him for quite awhile with two easy ingredients: food coloring and water. I fill a few containers with colored water, strip him down to his underwear (and a layer of sunscreen), and he’s happy mixing and splashing and making a mess (and since we are outside, there is minimal clean-up). A box of food coloring cost only a few dollars, water can be from the tap or a hose, if you have access, and if you’re like me, Tupperware (usually without lids) are in abundance. Added Bonus: Make it a learning moment by discussing colors and what colors are made by mixing the primary colors.
Cardboard Box, Crayons and/or Chalk
Next time you receive a large Amazon delivery, don’t be so quick to get rid of the box. The box can quickly be made into a blank canvas. If your box is large enough, your child can sit inside with crayons or chalk, creating a masterpiece all around them. Smaller boxes can be broken down into a canvas to be laid on the floor. Added Bonus: If your child fits in the box, it guarantees a no-mess art project.
Kinetic sand costs around $15-18 per bag, but it’s money well spent. We filled a small storage tote with about three bags of sand, a few dollar store dinosaurs, and some digging tools for easy rainy day fun. My son can dig, build, and squish to his heart’s content. Sand can be a melting ice cream cone, dunes for dinos, or shapeable clay. Make the sand more of a learning experience by hiding refrigerator magnet letters and searching for specific letters (or colors). Added Bonus: When the bin isn’t in use, just put on the lid and store out of sight.
I admit that water beads can be a bit of a mess at first, depending the age of your child. But they are inexpensive, costing less than $10 for a bag on Amazon, and you use only a teaspoon or two at a time. Additionally, the process of watching them grow is its own entertainment. Water beads are colorful and great sensory play for kids and adults! Add scoops, spoons, and funnels to the water bead bin so children can explore. Water beads an also be used to fill a balloon or well-secured zipper bag for a homemade stress ball. Added Bonus: Water beads can also be used to hydrate plants.
Note: Water beads cannot be ingested. The Teaching Mama blog has some great homemade water bead recipes if you are looking for safe, homemade alternatives. For recipes ad ideas, visit https://teachingmama.org/safe-water-beads-toddlers/.
Bath time is rarely a fight in our house-but on nights it is, bath accessories make the entire process so much easier. Our bath tub is always lined with cups and traditional bath toys, but those aren’t always the most exciting bath time activity. Around his first birthday, my son started to really enjoy color bath tabs. A few fizzy tabs changes the bath into a colorful wonder. More recently, my son has enjoyed bath foams and bath crayons. Both are a little messier than the bath colors, but having a variety of bath accessories in your tool belt can make bath time a breeze. Added bonus: The bath tabs color the water but do not leave a mess in the tub (or on your child).
Pinterest can be your best friend when it comes to taking these ideas and really growing and stretching the use of these items. I’d love to know what creative, low-cost “toys” your children enjoy most!