Monday, March 24, 2014

Meaningful Play: Tools and Resources

This post will be simple and to the point and will include resources and tools to help your infant/toddler learn. I will focus on the one year stage since that is where Declan happens to be right now.

Special NOTE: I am not the mom who thinks her son is the smartest on the block or even should be the smartest on the block. These resources are only suggestions to help enhance meaningful play with your child. Exposure is the main idea behind introducing any ABCs or numbers at this point. Repetition is key, but you can model ideas for your child as well just in daily routines. It also is important to remember that we are dealing with young children - they are sponges at this age, but they also need to burn off energy!! Down time and just fun time is important. Routine is also important to children at this stage. So, having a "lesson" time each day is fine as long as it is still fun. Let your child lead - if he isn't into putting pom poms into the egg carton that day, move to something else.  

This is just a list. Remember my philosophy when it comes to buying anything -  always hunt at garage sales, secondhand stores (our area has a store called Kid to Kid with gently used clothing and toys), and get CREATIVE in what you can use that you already have on hand.

Don't spend a ton of money on items for your child to learn. You will be amazed at what they will pick up without any toys at all just from their observations.

Online Resources for lesson ideas (I will add to this list as I find things):

  • {Lesson Plans and Activities + Resources}
  • Learning Videos: 

Things to Collect:

  • Paper towel/toilet paper rolls
  • Egg Cartons
  • Containers such as wipes containers and plastic snack containers {A friend even saved these and created her son's own little bowling set}These are also great to make bean shakers or rain sticks using beans or rice (music is important as well and developing rhythm).  

  • Beads 
  • Buttons (save from clothing you buy)
  • Tops to food squeeze pouches like those from Plum Organics or GoGoSqueez Applesauce (great colors and can serve as counters for patterns) You are already buying them possibly so why buy additional colored counters. A word of caution - watch children carefully who still put things in their mouth. 
  • {Tops To Save}
  • Containers from food like sour cream etc. to hold items (cheaper way to do this)
  • Beans/pasta
  • String
  • Ribbon
  • Scraps of felt or cloth

Toys (online and local resources):

Declan is at the age now (16 months) where he loves to stack things. He also is beginning to enjoy puzzles and he enjoys putting tops on containers and putting items into containers. He is also really into construction vehicles and trucks of any kind. Many of these toys can serve his interest long past 16 months even though some are labeled as 2+. 

Melissa and Doug
{These toys help with hand/eye coordination and physical manipulation of items- gross motor skills as well as learning shapes, colors and numbers}

Melissa and Doug 
A. Stacking Cars Baby & Toddler Toy $12.99
B. Caterpillar Gears Toddler Toy $9.99
C. First Bead Maze $14.99
D. Geometric Stacker Toy Toddler $16.99
E. Shape Sorting Cube Classic Toy $14.99
F. Classic ABC Block Cart $14.99
G. Large Shapes Jumbo Knob Puzzle - 8 Pieces $19.99
H. See Inside Numbers Peg Puzzle - 10 Pieces $7.99
I. Vehicles Jumbo Knob Puzzle - 8 pieces $19.99

**M&D also has some great puzzles that make sounds when the pieces are placed. Declan LOVES his animal noise puzzle he received for his birthday!! {Zoo Animals Sound Puzzle}

IKEA **Great place to check first along with garage sales**
{These toys help with gross motor skills, learning shapes and imaginative play}

A. Mula Stacking Rings $5.99
B. Mula Crane with Blocks $14.99
C. Mula Bead Roller Coaster
D. Mula Stack & Nest Cups $2.99
E. Mula 24 Building Blocks with Wagon $7.99
F. Mula Toy Hammering Block $5.99
G. Latsas 11-Piece Shopping Basket Set $7.99
H. Duktig 14-piece Vegetable Set $7.99
I. Duktig 9-piece Fruit Set $7.99


Other Resources
  • (we are members of Prime which helps save on a variety of kids' items as well as downloadable videos for Declan to watch on our Roku - {Little Pim Language Videos}
        Christmas Present via 
{Parum Parum Pum Drum - Lime}
  • Ross (or other discount stores)
I recently snagged these two toys at our local ROSS: 

Melissa and Doug Stack and Sort Board (teaches shapes, colors, patterns, coordination) Regularly $9.99 - Purchased for $6.99.

My First Construction Set by (Teaches Hand/Eye Coordination, Building Skills, Vehicle names- cement truck, dump truck, gasoline truck, front end loader) Purchased for $7.99. 

  • Dollar Tree (or other dollar stores)
  • Spielgaben "Smarter Play, Smarter Child" {More Expensive Option created for homeschoolers} 
  • Oriental Trading Company 
         - Cool Craft Trays {Tot Trays via 1+1+1=1 Blog}
Oriental Trading Company $10.50/6

Tools (for crafts and learning):
  • Oriental Trading {Follow Websites Notes for Age Appropriateness of Foam Items for Choking Hazards}
         - Wiggly Eyes for crafts {Dollar Store or Walmart}
         - Pom Poms {Dollar Store or Walmart}
         - Pipe Cleaners {Can also be found at the local dollar store}
         - Foam Shapes and Foam Sticky Back Letters {Foam Letters} {5" Foam Letters}
         - My Book of Numbers Thumbprint Craft Set {Make a Number Book}
         - Tissue Paper and Craft Paper
         - Kitchen Tongs to pick things up {We bought these at Bed, Bath and Beyond for our    
           kitchen, but you can purchase them at or {Tongs Set of 3} for              $12.70.

  • IKEA
        -Mala Chalk $1.99/24 pack
        -Drawing Paper Roll $4.99
        -Mala Tabletop Paper Roll Holder $6.99
        -Ice Trays (or at the dollar store)

Local Resources:

  • The School Box Teacher Store
  • Learning Express Toys 
  • Target
  • Walmart
  • Dollar Store 

I always try to buy toys that are educational as well as fun. And, I try to buy toys not based on age, but on how long Declan will be able to play with the toy and how many things it can teach. For example, he isn't going to be learning his ABC's anytime soon, but he can pull the Melissa and Doug cart behind him and can use the blocks to build towers.

Wonderful Addition I happened on toda: Dwell Studio

I have always LOVED Dwell Studio patterns and home items, but these are so cute!!! Meaningful play and imaginative play!!

{Wooden Play Sets} On Sale Now for $15.99 Regularly $36.00.

{Woodland Creative Play Set}

{Skyline Creative Set}

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