Here’s my biannual blog post! Will gladly accept the award for World’s Okayest Blogger this year. All jokes aside, 2020 has been a DOOZY. Since everyone is spending more (& more & more..) time at home these days, I figured now was a great time to share some of the activities and items that have kept us busy, sane and somewhat entertained in case any of you need some new ideas (far from an expert!). I broke the categories up by my two kids’ age groups and whether the activities were more educational versus purely play. If you have any favorites, be sure to let me know!
3-4 years old
My Tinker Time busy book – My friend (& Henry’s friend’s mommy!) created this activity book for preschool aged children to keep their school skills sharp, refresh on important subjects, and keep them busy long enough for you to have your morning cup of coffee. The book covers number & letter review, matching, tracing and so much more. The book is pictured above!
Floor puzzles – I’m not sure if it’s an age-related obsession, but Henry LOVES these big puzzles right now. And I love that they can be educational without him even realizing.
Sticker by letter books – These sticker books have been good to us! They come in a bunch of different themes (robot, unicorn, etc) and you have to match the lettered stickers to the blank spot with the matching letter on the opposite page to create a fun little picture. We have two to alternate & I’m about to order a third!
Young, Wild & Friedman boxes – I kept seeing these (beautiful) sensory boxes on Instagram, and on one desperate day I decided to order one individual themed kit (pirate & princess) for each child & then the large ocean sensory bin for them to share. They’re not cheap but they are the BEST. INVESTMENT. EVER. They still ask for them all the time and there’s something really special about the play-doh.
We also love building with magnatiles, making our own EASY educational sensory bins with water beads and a random assortment of plastic letters, animals or colors, and using our colored bears with tongs to work on our motor skills. I am just NOT the mom that creates elaborate sensory or montessori experiences for my kids (I wish I was!) so I generally like to keep things easy around here. He does have an iPad & of course I allow screentime, I’m not a masochist. He loves ABC Mouse & the PBS Kids app.
THE sink – There’s something about this damn sink that the kids can’t get enough of. It’s under $15 and worth every single penny. A wise friend told me to add a little dish soap and it makes it like a new exciting toy every single time!
Painting ceramic figurines – Anything messy is usually a hit in this house, including these painting dinosaurs. He’s no Picasso, but it keeps him busy! The kit comes with quite a few so it’ll be awhile before you run out.
Play-doh – I know, I know.. Play-doh is the biggest P I T A. I’ve learned to let it go, let them mix the colors, and just not GAF anymore. For some reason, they just love love love it and it’s just not going anywhere so let’s all come to terms with it, ok?
1-2 years old
This age is tough (ie not possible) to “teach” and so I’ve just found a bunch of play items that have teachable “moments” and repetition for speech and fine motor skills. Its note-worthy to point out that she does LOVE the Young, Wild & Friedman sensory kits, play-doh and her own play sink, too. Like I mentioned, I’m not an expert and would never claim that my ideas are THE BEST and ONLY ones you should use (lol – we ALL know someone like that), but these have been working well for the Ginzler Gang and might work for you too!
Coloring pads – Of course at the ripe age of 19 months, Ev can color INSIDE the lines, hold her crayon in the perfect position/grasp, and pronounce and point out the color “cerulean.” NOT. I mean, she can’t really “color” per se, but she does enjoy discovering the different crayon shades and pictures, seeing her “work” and we’ve been working on our color recognition. These giant pads are great and come with stickers, too! What toddler doesn’t LOVE stickers? I put her in the high chair with a page that she picks out herself, some jumbo crayons, a few stickers and now I’ve bought myself a few minutes to throw together lunch.
Kinetic Sand – I’m not sure this falls under the educational category, but I like that she has to use her fine motor skills to maneuver the kinetic sand into her different buckets/molds. It’s not as messy as you’d think and I strongly feel like these kinds of things keep them busy for longer than the typical 30 seconds – ya feel me?
Teach My Toddler kit – I’m pretty sure I recommended both the baby & toddler version of these kits back when Henry was a little younger and I still stand by them. Inside the toddler kits, theres little pouches with different subjects for your child to learn or just play with and eventually learn through the repetition – colors, letters, numbers, etc. At the moment, we’ve been working on color recognition and I love this kit for that purpose!
Dolls – It’s a given, right? She loves her dolls. She pushes them in a stroller, puts them to “night night,” and tries to feed them – real food (the clean up is fun). It’s not just the baby girl dolls, she loves her Maui & Hei Hei, and all of Henry’s superheroes, too. It’s pretty cute.
Water table & splash pad – My little Florida sunshine babe loves the water and when I don’t feel like getting in the pool, this is plan b. The water table is also fun with a few batches of blender foam (dish soap, water & food coloring in the blender) and the splash pad hooks right up to the hose and is a pretty confined and safe supervised water play activity.
Tea Time set – All parents love a bright musical repetitive electric toy, right? Unfortunately, my kids really do. Ev loves this tea set she got for her birthday and loves serving me “coffee” because she knows tea won’t cut it in this house. It’s annoying AF but a small sacrifice to make for a happy kid.
Dress-up, books, stickers, noise puzzles and painting are always a big hit for both kids, too. I hope you found this list helpful – at the very least a reminder of old toys and kits to take out of the closet again!