Young children are gifted with natural creativity. They don’t need a lot of fancy, expensive, “educational” toys to be happy or get ready for school. (Remember our childhood toys Box, Stick, and Dirt?)
During our homeschooling day, however, it’s important for our toddler to have a few activities to keep her busy. A two-year-old can create a lot of chaos in a short period of time, so I like to choose one or two items for her to explore at the table or on the floor next to us. Many families are doing something similar, calling it Tot School.
Take a moment to search for the term on Pinterest or Instagram, and it’s easy to be overwhelmed by all of the ideas and free printables that are available. I’d like to share our favorite “educational materials”; most of them are inexpensive and/or already in your home! Mix and match two or three to create fun new games for your toddler!
Here are the materials I consider “must-haves”:
1. Pom poms in a variety of colors and sizes
2. Craft sticks
3. Bright straws
5. Pony beads (found in a big bag at the dollar store)
Apparently, I am the lone adult that doesn’t really care for pipe cleaners, but I have found straws to be an excellent (less painful) alternative. We keep a couple of shoelaces handy for lacing/stringing objects (like pony beads or cut-up straws).
Next, you’ll need a few “accessories” to go with your must-haves:
1. Containers (jars, cleaned out parmesan cheese shakers)
2. Funnels (again, found at the dollar store)
3. Tongs (ours are from IKEA)
Already, I hope you’re thinking of a few simple activities that you can put together for your toddler: clothespins on straws, pony beads and a funnel with a jar, tongs and pom poms. At least TEN minutes of fun, am I right?
But wait, there’s more!
We love our muffin tin for sorting, counting, and patterning. For Valentine’s Day, I put a foam heart sticker (red, white, and pink) in each section and left it out for Kate with matching pom poms. She had a blast sorting and counting!
We also have a set of these customizable dice. Perfect for toddler hands, you can make a set with colors, numbers, letters, and pictures. We have gotten SO much use out of these!
Finally, I love to find rainbow-colored items (like our straws). We have a six-sided rainbow die from Discovery Toys that we use all the time. We also have the bowl set, which is perfect for color-matching. When Addie was not quite three, she realized that our magnetic letters are the same colors as the bowls and she sorted them all independently.