Stuffed Animal "Cage"

In an effort to keep my kids' small room clean and not cluttered with toys, I created a stuffed animal "cage" with an existing bookcase that was not being utilized to its full potential with books (toddlers are not particularly gentle with regular books, so we are only keeping board books in their room at the moment).  I liked this idea better than a mesh hammock, because it is completely accessible to the children (my crazy monkey would try and climb into the hammock, I'm sure of it, or it would have to be so high she couldn't reach it, and then what is the point of keeping the stuffed animals?) And yet, it takes up no more floor space than is already being used. I got the inspiration from another blog, and modified it to suit our needs.  Its really quite simple, I completed ours in less than an hour, including time to recharge the drill battery!

I didn't take good "step by step" pictures, so I hope you get the gist of it.  You can make the cage as big or as small as you need, using the entire bookcase, without any shelves, or as I did, just securing a shelf at the desired height with "L" brackets.


Sorting games

Those moments where you open the door,
witness the mess, say "Yup"
and just close the door again... 
Smooch loves to sort things.  She loves to sort by colour, by shape, by size, and sometimes, by some other pattern that I can't always figure out.  As patterns and size comparisons are the beginnings of math, I encourage this exercise as often as possible.  She loves to put small things into different containers, so I'll often grab 3 or 4 plastic tubs from my Tupperware drawer and a bag of chip clips and she'll sit on the floor in the kitchen while I'm cooking dinner and sort, and resort, and then make a tremendous mess by dumping them all out on the floor, while laughing infectiously.  She also loves to distribute things in muffin pans.  She'll use her mini muffin pan from her kitchen, and will organize her rocks/ marbles, buttons, puff balls, or any other small objects she can find.  It is often incredibly spontaneous, like in the bathroom with her hair clips. She'll make what looks like a huge mess, but just as I'm getting frustrated for the mess, I notice the bath mat, and how she's started sorting them by colour. I usually just take a deep breath, and let it happen, and deal with cleaning it up later. However,we do have to be careful to keep the small stuff up off the floor, now that WeeMan is mobile & constantly putting everything in his mouth, but I give her free reign to sort as she pleases most of the time.  Recently, while WeeMan was napping, we sat on the floor together with her muffin pan and her rocks, and she put one in each cup.  Jumping on the chance to count with her, I put a second one in a few of the cups, and asked her which ones needed another rock.  She surveyed the pan, then pointed to a cup that had only 1 rock, and I placed a rock in that cup.  She seemed to catch on quickly.  Once each cup had 2 rocks, I added a third to one cup, then handed her a rock, and said, "Where does this one go?" She placed it in a cup that only had 2 rocks.  I repeated this, and she continued filling the cups one by one, until all 12 had 3 rocks.  I attempted to do four, but then she decided all the rest needed to go into one cup, and then they all needed to be dumped out.  Ah, well.  Such is the attention span of a 2 1/2 year old!  Maybe we'll try again tomorrow.  These activities are especially good on rainy days, when we cannot go outside.  It requires a different kind of energy, mental instead of physical, but it helps keep her from bouncing off the walls by dinnertime.

Tissue Paper Art

Little pieces of tissue paper 

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Glue stick

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Construction paper

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Crayons

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Fridge-worthy art projects

Since she loves to tear paper, I gave Smooch the task of making up her supplies before she started.  The glee as she realized she was allowed to rip up the paper -- priceless.  (Coincidentally, this is also very good for dexterity development at this stage of toddlerhood.)

Salt Drawing

Here's a super simple activity that Smooch loves.  For those moments when I just need her to sit still for a few minutes. So I can attend to WeeMan, or start dinner, or just take a little sanity break.

Items needed:
1 jelly roll pan (or other large pan with sides)
Salt
dry hands or Q-tips for drawing
IMAGINATION!


Just doodle in the salt with fingers or Q-tips, then shake the pan to erase and start again! Voila -- quiet toddler!  

as you can see, wet/ damp hands = a little more clean-up