Last year (2020) was challenging for many families. In March, Spain along with many other countries went into lockdown. We were confined to our apartment with an almost 2-year-old. Suddenly, I needed to entertain my toddler all day whilst making sure I offered a variety of activities and physical exercise in an apartment. I drew on my experience as a primary school teacher to create play-based activities to engage my son whilst ensuring he was developing holistically.
I started an Instagram page, @simpletoddleractivities, to share some of the activities we were doing with friends and family to share activity ideas. Then, it became something to keep me sane during a challenging time. Finally, it grew into something much larger, a community of people who shared ideas and provided each other with play inspirations.
Throughout this journey, I realized parents wanted some inspiration for play-based activities to keep their toddlers busy whilst giving them the best start in life. Being a primary school teacher and parent, I wanted to use my teaching expertise to create simple activity ideas that are attainable for other parents and yet achievable for their toddlers. I try to use resources that are easily accessible, like recyclables, household items, and common craft supplies. Furthermore, I want to help reduce overconsumption that plagues many families and in turn, has negative impacts on the environment.
While harnessing the power of play you create beautiful life-long memories with your child. Having fun with your child while focussing on developing their fundamental skills, using resources you already have at home is a great place to start.
Through play, you become an active role model for your toddler. If you are not the world’s greatest crafter, scientist, and so on, it is still worth taking the time to do some projects with your kids, teaching them that you are willing to give it go. You are showing them it is okay to try something new, and potentially even fail. Play is one of the most important aspects of a child’s life, play is how they learn.
Tips for play
We lead such busy lives but making quality time with our children is possible. Even if you aim for two times per day, of 10 minutes each, it adds up over time.
The key to quality time is:
- Uninterrupted (no mobiles / TV)
- Do something your child wants to do or is interested in.
The key to learning ideas is variety.
A variety of activities that engage the senses, foster curiosity, and develop their interests. Think about the ‘whole child’ in terms of holistic development.
- Physical development – growing and developing gross and fine motor skills.
- Social skills – interacting and communicating with others.
- Emotional development –identifying and learning about feelings.
- Intellectual development – cognitive, creativity and acquiring skills for learning.
- Environmental values – engaging with nature and concepts of reusing/upcycling.
Here is an example of a craft from my book that you can try at home!
Cardboard, toilet paper roll, scissors, paint, paintbrush, clothes peg, yarn, and googly eyes. You’ll also need newspaper or other protective covering and a hole punch if you have one.
- Clear a worskspace and cover the surface for protection
- Gather together and set out all the items you will be using
Step by Step
- Help your child to cut a jellyfish shape out of cardboard.
- Encourage them to use a clotes peg and cottonwool ball to splodge blue paint over the cardboard.
- help them to cut small holes or use a holepunch to create a space to thread the yarn to make the tentacles. You may need to do this for them.
- Cut 20-to-30 centimeter lengths of yarn to thread through each hole.
- Thread the yarn through the holes and tie each length of yarn in a double knot to secure it to the jellyfish. Your toddler may need help to thread the yarn and you will almost certainly have to tie the knots.
- Get your child to pain a toilet roll and let it dry.
- Help them to cut slits halway along the sides to make eight legs.
- Glue on two googly eyes.
- Show your toddler how to bend each let outwards slightly so the octopus balances well.
Another way to play
You can use these in conjunction with the summer sensory try or practice counting to eight by adding dots, stickers and or jewels to each octopus leg.
- hand-eye coordination
- Fine Motor Skills
- Concentration and focus
- Patience, persevarance, confidence, and self-esteem
- Sensory need
- Problem solving and decision making
- Awareness of reusing or conserving earth’s resources
Lisa is an Australian primary school teacher living in Spain. She graduated from university in 2005 and went on to further her studies in education. She is passionate about children´s education being holistic, fun, and play-based. Lisa’s crafts and activities can be found here Simple Activities For Toddlers: A Practical Play-At-Home Handbook For Parents or follow her on Instagram, Facebook, or online.