I like screen time. Sometimes I even LOVE screen time. And I don’t just mean for myself.
The first word out of my toddler’s mouth in the morning is usually, “BLIPPI!” If you don’t know who Blippi is, go check him out. You may thank me or hate me!
Lately I’ve been putting together some age appropriate activities for my 20 month old to keep him busy throughout the day that don’t involve screen time. I do this for a few reasons. I have a 6 month old who takes a morning nap and I need the house to be somewhat quiet. Now that my oldest is officially a toddler, I feel like he’s capable of learning to be quiet while his brother naps AND able to work on some fine motor skills.
My educational background is in ECE (early childhood education) so I enjoy putting these things together! Its important to remember that every child is different. I could go on a soap box about this. I take some issues with standardized education because I’ve seen the vast differences in a child’s development, during my years of teaching and now, as a mom. We’re taught 7 learning styles when studying ECE. Every human being learns differently and that is why I believe standardized education is too narrow of an approach to learning.
Today I’m going to share 4 toddler activities that build fine motor skills and that I’ve actually tested on my own toddler. The best part is you can put these things together for little to ZERO cost. I had most of these things already or I ran to the dollar store for a few things. As with all baby and toddler activities, PLEASE supervise your child.
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Pom Pom Wisk
- Large wisk
- Pom poms
This activity is pretty simple! The objective is for your toddler to pull the pom poms out of the wisk and/or stuff them back in. This is a wonderful activity that teaches a child critical thinking. It’s challenging but still simple enough that they don’t usually become frustrated.
Pipe Cleaner Threading
- Pipe cleaners
- Straws cut in half
The objective with this one is to have your child thread the pipe cleaners through the straws or strainer. My toddler took a creative approach and started pushing the straws through the strainer as well! This exercise is great for building muscles children use for their pincer grasp. That comes in handy for holding writing utensils later on.
Cupcake Pom Poms
- Cupcake Tin
- Pom poms
In this activity your child uses the tablespoon to scoop pom poms into the cupcake tin. Grasping the tablespoon is great for building the muscles they need to hold utensils for eating. It also requires hand and eye coordination.
Colour Sorting Pom Poms
- Coloured bowls or containers
- Pom poms in colours that match the bowls
- Plastic fine motor tweezers or grasping tool
This activity is a bit more advanced. The only reason I’ve done this one with my 20 month old is he’s been recognizing a few of his colours for the past month. I started working with him on colours by sorting his blocks onto the matching colour mat, on the floor in his room. So I thought I would try a colour sorting activity like this. The tweezers can be challenging but fantastic for developing those muscles in the hands. Even if your child doesn’t recognize their colours yet, it’s a great activity to try. I purchased the bowls and poms at the dollar store. You can find grabbing tools here.
A Few Things To Consider When Doing These Activities For Your Toddler:
- Know when your child is done with the activity and that it’s ok if their attention span isn’t very long. My son is 20 months old and he can spend around 5-10 minutes on these activities. 10 minutes is an incredible amount of time and he has to be quite interested as well as motivated to last that long! Once he starts throwing things, I know he’s telling me he’s done. Developmentally, most children have an attention span of their age plus a few minutes. Do I think throwing is wrong? Nope. I actually don’t. Let me tell you why. Children are scientists. They are the BEST scientists. The are going to figure out cause and effect better, faster and more efficiently than any adult ever could. It’s innate. I let my son throw things. I don’t let my son throw EVERYTHING. I’m teaching him what is ok to throw and what isn’t. He may not understand that concept now but with time he will. So if you see a kid outside throwing rocks into a pond or kicking dirt around-probably my kid. #sorrynotsorry
- Are they ready? 6 months ago my son wasn’t interested in doing these things. He probably would’ve put everything in his mouth or thrown it all across the room. It’s important to approach activities like this with the question: “Is it developmentally Appropriate?” If your baby/toddler is still very oral then you will have to watch them closely or choose a different activity. This leads me to my next point.
- Don’t compare. Comparing our children to others isn’t fair to them. Take it from an ECE with close to 15 years experience working with kids. I’m not an expert but I’ve seen enough in my years working with young children to understand that they develop skills at different paces. My son is quite verbal at 20 months old. But I know another child around his age who isn’t verbal at all. I know children who started walking as early as 9 months. My son was about 15 months old when he started fully walking. Comparison usually only serves to stir up jealousy, guilt, insecurities and mean mom competition. It can also cause you to hold your child to unrealistic standards. Love your child for who he is, not who you think they should be. You’ll be surprised at all the amazing things they are capable of as they grow in the security of your love.
*I’m not suggesting that you disregard the advice of any doctor or health professional if they are concerned about something developmental with your child. If you suspect your child may need help in a specific area, please seek help.
I’ve really been enjoying new activities with my son and soon enough his little brother will be joining him. Check back for more posts on fun, developmentally appropriate (and inexpensive) activities for babies and toddlers!