Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Stringing and Sorting Colored Pasta

  • various uncooked Pasta Shapes
  • rubbing alcohol 
  • food coloring 
  • zip lock bags
  • plastic lacing

How to make: 
To color the pasta, pour about 1/4 cup of alcohol and about 10 drops of food coloring into a zip lock baggie and mix thoroughly. Add 1-2 cups of uncooked pasta into the zip lock baggie and shake the mixtures vigorously to completely cover the pasta with the alcohol and food coloring mixture. Let the pasta mixture sit for one hour and then turn the baggie over and let it sit for another hour. You can let the pasta, alcohol, and food coloring mixture sit for as long as it takes to get the deepest color pasta you are looking for. If your pasta is not dark enough then just repeat the first few steps again until your pasta reaches the desired shade of coloring you are looking for. The longer the pasta sits in the alcohol and food coloring mixture, the deeper the color. Once your pasta has reached the desired color, drain the pasta and separate it into groups of like colors on a cookie sheet that has been lined with wax paper. Let the colored pasta dry overnight.

Create necklaces, bracelets and anklets using the colored pasta and colored strings (NOTE: before your child begins, you will need to tie one piece of pasta in a knot at the end of the string, so that the rest of the pasta shapes do not fall off!)

Younger Children:
talk to your child about the different colors of pasta and the different shapes of pasta; show your child how to string a piece of pasta on the cord; allow your child to "freely design" a necklace; have your child sort the pasta by color; have your child sort the pasta by shape.

Older Children:
give your child a pattern to follow to string onto the cord

Jillian, 20 months old
20-month-old Jillian likes to pick out all the wagon wheel pasta shapes, but doesn't pay attention to the other shapes yet, nor is she able to string them.

Leah, 2.5 years old
This is one of Leah's favorites. She was able to sort "flower" shaped pasta pretty easily. She doesn't have any trouble stringing a variety of the shapes, either. She likes making necklaces for herself and others. We did have some trouble keeping the pasta on the string - she would accidentally knock some off the back end, even when the string wasn't full. I tried putting the tip of the string sideways through a paper clip so it was "clamped." That was effective in preventing pasta from sliding off, but Leah didn't want it there.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Button Snake

  • scrap felt
  • a long piece of ribbon
  • a button
  • a needle and thread

How to make: 
Instructions for making the pushing puff balls activity can be found here on the blog The Activity Mom.

Basic Skills (18 months+):
Learning colors, learning shapes, counting, sorting, matching

Advanced Skills (2 years+):
Buttoning, Unbuttoning, Patterns

Possible Activities:
Sort felt pieces by shape and color, count felt pieces, practice buttoning for dressing self, create patterns with colors and shapes, discuss changing seasons and falling leaves

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Counting Plates

  • 10 small paper plates
  • round circle stickers
  • cardstock squares with number 1-10 printed on them
  • pom-poms

How to make: 
Starting with the first plate, stick 1 round sticker on it. For plate 2, stick 2 round stickers on it, proceed the same up to 10. Write the number for each plate on the back of it.

Child practices one to one correspondence as he/she places pom-poms onto each dot on a plate.

Child learns to count dots as he/she places pom-poms

Then have him/her find the number tile that matches the number of items and place it on the plate.

Turning the plates over, child counts pom-poms onto appropriate number.

Leah, 2.5 yrs old
Although Leah is good at counting, and is able to place the puff balls in the small white circles, she prefers randomly distributing puff balls among the plates and pretending they're food. She also likes pouring them off the plates back into the bowl. I think she'll grow into counting them out to match the plates.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Measure It

  • Three sorting mats (cardstock)
  • Three size rulers (cardstock)
  • Various pieces of string and ribbon for measuring and sorting

How to make: 
Choose three different sized animals from clipart and print them on the corner of the sorting mats and create 3 rulers. Cut various pieces of string and ribbon into the lengths of the animal rulers.

Show your child how to measure each item. Once he/she determines how long it is (as long as the shark, dog or caterpillar), he/she then should set the piece on the corresponding mat. He/she then should set the piece on the corresponding mat. He/she should continue measuring and sorting until all the pieces are on the mats.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


  • 7 tangram shapes (download here)
  • tangram outlines/silhouettes (search google for these)

How to make: 
Tangrams are an ancient Chinese moving piece puzzle, consisting of 7 pieces made using 3 basic geometric shapes. There are two large, one medium and two small triangles, one square and one parallelogram. The objective of the puzzle is to form a specific shape (given only an outline or silhouette) using all seven pieces, which may not overlap. Search "tangrams" on to find many other ideas and activities using tangrams.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pony Beads and Pipe Cleaners

  • several pipe cleaners
  • handful of pony beads

How to make: 
Have child thread pony beads onto the pipe cleaners to practice fine motor control. They could also match bead colors to the pipe cleaners.

Extend the fine motor skill practice by threading the pipe cleaners into an upside-down colander.

Jillian, 20 months old
20-month-old Jillian can string the beads on the pipe cleaners with the help of someone holding the pipe cleaner for her.

Leah, 2.5 years old
Leah, 2.5 years old
This is another favorite, after I added some more pipe cleaners and beads (our swap set only came with 2 pipe cleaners and 10 beads). She sometimes sorts them by color, but more often uses a variety of colors to make bracelets. She gets a kick out of making "jewelry" for herself and others to wear!
Leah, 2.5 years old
There were only 2 pipe cleaners and 10 pony beads (5 of each color to match the pipe cleaners) in our swap bags, and Leah put all the beads on the correctly matched pipe cleaners in about a minute on her first try. So I bought a cheap colander at Walmart specifically to give her to play with, as well as more pipe cleaners and pony beads. Here she's "making art" with the pipe cleaners and colander.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Matching Color Shades

  • Paint swatch sample cards from a hardware store (2 identical for each color)
  • Clothes pins
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Strips of cardboard cut into the same shape as the paint sample cards (optional)

How to make: 
Instructions for making the Matching Color Shades activity can be found here on the blog Tot School.
  1. Choose one paint strip and separate out the colored clothespins that match it.
  2. Present your tot with the selected paint strip and matching clothespins.
  3. Choose one of the clothes pins and hold it next to the color at the top of the paint strip.
  4. Model your thinking by saying, "Do these shades match?" and then (depending on if it matches or not) "No, the shades don't match. I think this one is darker..." or "Yes, these match!"
  5. If the shades don't match, move the clothes pin down to the next darker color and ponder over whether they match or not. Invite your child to give you an opinion. Keep going until you reach the matching shade.
  6. When you reach the matching shade, say, "These shades match!" and deliberately show your tot how to press the ends of the clothes pin to open it, slide it onto the card, and release the clothes pin to make it close.
  7. Select a new clothes pin and repeat the process.
  8. Hand the work over to your tot once they understand the activity.
For younger children, work on basic colors only: Blue, Green, Red, Yellow and not the different shades.

For older children, mix many color shades and have children work independently.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pushing Puff Balls

  • Plastic yogurt or butter tub (with lid)
  • pom-poms or cotton balls
  • scissors
  • colored permanent markers to match pom pom colors

How to make: 
Instructions for making the pushing puff balls activity can be found here on the blog Children's Learning Activities.

Younger children simply push the pom-poms through the holes (the holes are slightly smaller than the pom-poms so the kids must push them through, rather than just dropping them in the holes). We used colored permanent markers to color around each hole so older children have to match the color of the pom pom to the proper hole, not just push them through any hole. Children could also count the pom-poms as they push them into the container - how many of each color are there? How many total?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Counting Corn Number Boards


  • Fun foam sheets
  • small items for counting (we used corn)
  • Permanent Marker

How to make: 
Instructions for making these number boards can be found on

Ideas for use:
  • Practice number recognition
  • Count out corn and place in the circles for fine motor practice
  • practice colors, match colors
  • practice which cards add up to 10 or some other number (i.e.: 9 and 1, 4 and 6 both add up to 10)
  • Older kid idea, write the number on the back of the cards and practice recognizing the words

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Rolling Felt Board

  • Full sheet of felt and fabric for the backing
  • Matching ribbon, approx 14" long
  • Sewing Machine (recommended)
  • Felt cut into 6 large squares, 4 small squares, 2 large circles, 5 small circles, 7 large triangles, 2 small triangles
  • 4 pattern cards

How to make the rolling felt board: 
  1. Place the fabric, good side facing up, then fold the ribbon in half and pin on top of the fabric, with the folded part sticking off the edge by about a quarter of an inch.
  2. Place the felt on top of the fabric and ribbon, and stitch around the rectangle, leaving a small space to turn it right-side-out.
  3. Turn the piece right-side-out and stitch up the open hole.
  4. Press the piece with an iron on the FABRIC side (not the felt side).

Use the felt board to practice colors and shapes; the pattern cards give examples of a boat, castle, truck and train that you can create with the shapes. Encourage your child to create his/her own pictures with the shapes. The pattern cards came from

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Popsicle Stick Puzzle


  • Popsicle Sticks 
  • Glue
  • Masking Tape
  • craft knife
  • large Printed photo (height of popsicle sticks)
  • small printed photo (for reference)

How to make: 
Instructions for making the popsicle stick puzzles can be found here on the blog The Amazing Mess.