My little nephew turned one this month. His birthday came at a busy time. We packed some well meaning gifts but I was disappointed we didn't send anything hand made. My sister recently sent me some pictures of a 'posting' toy she had made. Simple cards that can be 'posted' into a hole cut out of a shoe box. It reminded me of all the easy DIY, home made activities that children of this age just love.
My sister is also a busy working mum and I'm hoping she will enjoy some further Montessori inspiration! So I made some time today to put together some of our favourite activities for this age group, using all materials we had in our home (with a few sneaky additions from the HWM Shop). I came up with twelve great activities that will keep my nephew happy for a very long time - well at least a few hours!
1. Shakers. Seeds, coloured rice and different beans in small jars, provides a wonderful sensory experience when shaken. You can see Otis using a similar set here.
2. A big jar of coloured rice and a wooden scoop. It's likely this will need to be poured in a larger tray or taken outside however this is a lovely sensory material. Simply to play with or pour with hands or the scoop. Plain rice or beans is easy however as a gift I love the look of coloured rice.
3. Homemade play dough with craft sticks. The play dough is in a simple jar (from Ikea here) that a young toddler can learn to open. I don't feel the need for tools at this young age however I know children often love to poke and play with craft sticks with the play dough.
I'm also sending the small wooden tray - these small trays are super useful for a walking toddler - to carry their activities and to contain the activity.
4. Metal shaker with coloured matchsticks. This is a great activity for fine motor skills and hand eye coordination. The coloured matchsticks are in an interesting container he can learn over time to open. You can see Otis using one similar and other DIY ideas here. Our DIY coin box (a posting activity) can be found here.
5. Dot stickers and small paper. This might be a bit difficult at 12 months however it will be ready when he is ready. Peeling the stickers off is fun and placing them on the paper requires coordination and concentration. You can see Otis using the dot stickers here.
6. Open and close activity. Using clean old containers mainly from the kitchen. Three containers have screw top lids so some more variety would be good here. Perhaps even a pouch with a little zip. My sister can add what she can find in her home. The idea is the child learns to open the containers - observe how the opening works, to twist and rotate wrists and to work those little hands and fingers. This can also be made more interesting by hiding little objects inside the containers for the child to find. You can see Otis using open close activities here and here. Again if it's too difficult my sister can put it away and introduce it later. Be careful and always supervise with small pieces and small lids.
7. A wooden bolt and nut (currently only $9.95 USD with free shipping including to US and Australia). This is a wonderful wooden toy that encourages concentration and wrist rotation/working of the hands. I purchased this from Etsy here and I love it. I wish I had it when my boys were little.
8. Scooping floating ball. This one requires water in a bucket/container to float the plastic balls in and a wire scoop to pick the balls up. A fun scooping and transferring activity. Otis loved this and worked on it for many months (see here).
9. Simple stacking toy. This is using some left overs from Otis toys. But for a DIY a wooden dowel (paper towel holder) or some kind and some wooden napkin rings work well. We will also send our Progressive Stacker from Beginning Montessori.
11. Alphabet Wallet Cards. As these are chewable, bright and entertaining they will last from early toddlerhood through to learning phonics.
12. Pop Up Toy. This is good for colour recognition and coordination. The little peg people spring up once pushed and released. Fun and entertaining. My nephew already has the Toddler Shape Puzzle which is also good for this age.
It is difficult when purchasing or making gifts and not knowing the exact stage of development the child is at. If any of these are too difficult or if he isn't interested it's best to put it away and leave it for a week/month or even longer. Observation is the best way to know when a child is ready.
I'm hoping my sister and my little nephew will be thrilled when these arrive at their doorstep!