Toddler busy bag exchange

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A good friend of mine recently hosted an activity bag exchange for young children and toddlers. Each Mum involved made 13 copies of an activity of their choice. We all got together for a chat and to exchange our bags with each other, leaving us all with 13 different activities to use with our own children. Here are the wonderful bags the ladies made. (While none of these are original ideas, they can be found in so many places across the web that I haven’t tried to give credit to sources in most cases.)

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Pizza factory. The children follow the order cards to custom-make each pizza according to their customer’s preferences. (Links to free printable order cards and other busy bag swap ideas here.)

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Popstick pattern match. Use the coloured popsticks to copy the picture patterns. Several of the cards have plain colours on the back to convert  the activity to a colour match instead.

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Button snake. Great for learning how to do up buttons; excellent for fine motor control. The felt pieces are pushed on and off the “snake” using the button head.

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Pipecleaner bracelets. Thread the cut straws onto the pipecleaners to make patterns and jewellery. You could do this as a colour matching activity if you have the right straws and pipe cleaner colours

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Sandpaper and wool pictures. Again with patterns to follow and copy, placing the pieces of wool onto the sandpaper to make pictures.

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Paper clip feet. Slide the paper clips onto the toes by colour or write a number on each foot for counting practise as well as fine motor skills. Young children can just pile the paperclips on top if it is too difficult to push them on.

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Tissue paper pictures. Tear pieces of tissue or crumple into balls to decorate the pictures or make you own with the blank paper and glue. Stickers and crayons are added for extra fun as well.

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Paint swatch pegging. Pincer grip (necessary for writing later) is exercised by opening the pegs to match them to the correct colour swatch.

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Shape puzzle. A simple make-your-own puzzle with foam sheet cut into geometric shapes

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Pop-pom push jar. Push the pompoms through 2 sizes of holes into the plastic container. (Tip: Use a drill to make the holes.)

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My youngest enjoyed the pompom posting and soon figured out that he could shake the small ones back out again – saving me the trouble of taking the lid on and off for him!

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Felt chains. Perfect timing for Christmas! While the rest of the family are producing reams of paper chain to decorate the entire house (or is that just my children?) the youngest can be practising with felt and velcro, to be made and re-made over and over again.

The last 2 bags were mine and I made sewing and threading activities and a basic gluing bag. Sorry, no photos, but check here and here for some gluing and fine-motor ideas.)

Other posts you may find helpful:

Ziploc activity bags for toddlers and preschoolers

Toddler busy boxes 

Sensory tub ideas

Read-alouds, audio books and dramatised stories.

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We have just returned from a family holiday which involved much driving. Having chosen not to go down the road of DVD’s in the car, we instead loaded up the IPOD with a stack of classic audio books and listened to those as a family.

I am very aware of the value that comes from spending time reading aloud to my children. Exposing them to great literature is a priority for me but the reality is that I am just not getting around to it as much as I would like. One of the side effects of this is that the quality of play that the children are involved in has dropped. Gone is the Little House on the Prairie winter house with “Pa”(my eldest son) out protecting “Ma” and the “kids” from wild bears and other wildlife, gone is Captain Hook’s pirate ship and so many other wonderful imaginings that characterised their outdoor time together.

During our holiday we had a wonderful time listening to “The Swiss Family Robinson” while we drove around looking at the beautiful scenery. Conversations have abounded about survival skills and how we would have fared in a similar situation and best of all, our first day back saw the 4 eldest children together outside building a pretend sled to carry their tools, weapons, horses and other survival gear as they set out on an imaginary adventure together.

I have also downloaded and burnt a bunch of classic stories to CD for the children to listen to during their daily room time, over lunch when conversations are getting silly, on beds during rest time (for those no longer sleeping every day) or occasionally at bedtime. Five of the children shared a room at our farm-stay accommodation during our time away so having something to listen to as they were falling asleep helped cut down (but not eliminate!) the silly excitement of being in the same room together and allowed the little ones to get to sleep while the older ones could lay awake a little longer listening to the story.

Visit librivox.org for literally thousands of books that are in the public domain and therefore absolutely free. Volunteer readers (some better than others) have recorded these stories and all you have to do is download them for your listening pleasure. Other sites I have not yet used but offer a similar service are gutenburg.orgaudiobooksforfree.com and verkaro.org,

Many dramatised audiobooks are available through online booksellers such as bookdepository.comFocus on the FamilyLamplighter and others. We purchased “Sir Knight of the Splendid Way” from Lamplighter and after stopping at our destination only part way through the story were barely back in the car before I heard “Aren’t you going to put The Splendid Way back on?” – from my husband!

Travelling with young children – tomorrow!

We leave for our 5 day holiday tomorrow. The bags are packed and carry-on luggage is stocked with snacks and activities to keep the children happily occupied on the plane.

I had a look back at my previous selection of travel activity ideas and packed several, added those the older children made for the twins, plus two new activities below.

This is our magnetic play set. I stuck a bunch of small pictures cut from old activity books onto adhesive magnet backing (found in the photo section at department stores for making photo fridge magnets or salvaged from the back of junk mail fridge magnets and glued on.) The underside of the tray has the entire collection and when the children have chosen what they want to play with they take them off and flip the tray over to play on the back.

They will also be great once we get home to use for keeping my toddlers interested while I homeschool the older children and could double as a highchair or mat activity.

Our second “new” activity is zip-lock bags with a pile of cereal to thread onto wool and make necklaces with, which of course will be eaten 5 minutes later. I threaded the wool with large, blunt, tapestry needles to make it easier to poke through the cereal, knowing that many of the holes were closed over. They could just eat those ones straight away I guess!

I think we are all set for a smooth flight with 5 happy little munchkins. Now I can’t wait to see the look of horror on the face of those we will be sitting next to! Hopefully by the end of the trip they will be pleasantly surprised.