Thursday, September 22, 2011

Keeping Toddlers Busy

It's been a while since we last had a toddler around. I'm not sure what I did to entertain the little ones in the past. I guess it was easier because the other children always had a playmate close to their age. Since there is a four and a half year differnce between our little Cracker Jack and the previous "baby", I've had to come up with some creative ways to keep him busy while his older siblings are busy learning.

One of his favorite activities is finger painting. He's never been one to put things in his mouth, but just to be safe I use ketchup and mustard. He likes this twice as much because he has fun smearing it and he gets a little treat.  His masterpieces aren't really suitable for keeping (in fact, they are usually nothing more than a smear of "paint" that soaked in before he could eat it), but he has fun and it keeps him out of trouble.

Another thing which will keep him entertained for at least a half hour is a container of water, a spoon, and a few of his plastic animals. After he is through splashing, I give him a towel and he wipes up all the drips. This is a good activity to do after finger painting because the water washes up the paint mess.

He also enjoys putting coins into his piggy bank. It is way for him to practice manual dexterity and, since I tell him the names of the coins as he drops them in the bank, he is learning something about money. I haven't used this during school hours, though I suppose a roll of pennies could keep him busy while I helped the younger children with lapbooks or something that we could do while we sat by him at a table.

We also try to include him in as many things as we can. He loves snuggling, so I can usually get him to sit quietly in my lap while we are reading. And when he won't sit still, one of the older children will sometimes take him into his bedroom to play while they sit on his bed and do their reading.

What do you do to keep your toddlers busy?

Color Sorting With Paint Sample Cards {free printable}

Here is another activity I put together to keep the toddler busy during school hours. I found this idea at Walking By the Way, the blog written by Ami of Homeschool Share. She even created a grid that you can download. But I don't have any colored ink in the printer right now and I wanted to use different colors than she did. So I made my own.

All you need is some paint color sample cards, a scissors, a color sorting chart (and colored pencils if you print in black and white), and a laminator. I used some Scotch brand self-laminating pouches that I purchased a while ago.

Unfortunately, this activity is a bit too advanced for CJ. But his older sister had fun with it!  Maybe I should have tried the simpler activity I found on the Chasing Cheerios blog.

color sorting chart

black and white color sorting chart

Monday, September 12, 2011

How To Make Colored Rice

I had two problems. First, we were given a five pound bucket of white rice- leftovers from y2k. I know rice keeps for a long time, but the idea of eating food that is more than ten years old doesn't really appeal to me, especially since we try to avoid white rice anyway. Second, I have a two year old who needs to be kept busy while we are doing lessons. What to do? Why not dye the rice and let my son play with it?

Children love the feel of rice. It is great for pouring and measuring practice. Or it can be glued to cardstock to create collage pictures. A cookie sheet covered in colored rice is a great place to practice writing the alphabet, or for driving toy cars.

I had seen several recipes for coloring rice that involved the use of rubbing alcohol, but I wanted something a little less toxic. Once again, Google proved to be a valuable friend and I was able to locate directions which were more toddler friendly.

What You Need:
2 cups white rice
2 T. white vinegar
10 drops food coloring
quart mason jar with lid
cookie sheet
aluminum foil

Measure the rice into the jar. (If you are feeling particularly patient, your toddler would love to help with this.) Add vinegar and food coloring. Screw lid onto jar and shake until rice is evenly colored. Line cookie sheet with foil. Pour rice onto foil and bake in a 200 degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until rice is dry. Allow to cool. Store in a closed container.

Edited 9-19-11:
I just came across a blog post on It's A Preschool Party which shows how rice can be dyed using unsweetened drink mixes. Not only is the rice colored, but it is scented too! Check out her Smell Good Supplies.

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