Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Toddler Activities by Age (Indoor and Outdoor)

This is a list of activities I'm compiling, not just for other parents or daycare providers out there, but for myself as well. It will be something that I continue to add to as I brainstorm more ideas, and refer to when I need ideas. (Also, the ages on the list will increase as the kids at the daycare grow older, and I learn what works for them.) 

This list is a general guideline for the most appropriate time to introduce each activity. Thus, once I have mentioned an activity on the list, I do not repeat it, even though it can still be enjoyed (often even more so) at later ages. To reiterate, if you have come upon this site looking for activity ideas for your 2-year-old, check the entire list, as you may appreciate some of those listed under "6 months", for example. Some children will vary; they will be more receptive to certain activities sooner or later than what I have suggested.   The activities on this list do not involve any specific toys, but do include general or common toys I consider to be essential, or maybe I should say optimal, for childhood learning. The only activities I have not included in this list are those pertaining to music and reading. I believe activities from these two categories should be integral to a child's life from birth.  

6 Months and Older

  • water play (fill basin with shallow water and put bath toys and other appropriate items in, and LOTS of towels around!)
  • finger painting with pudding
  • emptying and filling containers (e.g. filling a bin with books, then taking them out again)
  • banging pots and pans with spoon

  • blow bubbles for them to see
  • water basin filled with toys
  • swings at the playground

9 Months and Older

  • walkers and push toys
  • sensory play bag (fill bag with hard/soft objects, and objects with different textures - e.g. ribbon, bean bag, wooden block)

  • walkers and push toys

1 Year and Older

  • peg puzzles, or those with large wooden pieces that don't sink completely into the board ('Melissa and Doug' brand is good for this)
  • pull toys
  • putting lids on pots and pans, taking them off

  • pull toys

15 Months and Older

  • pop-up toys (where you have to push a button, flip a switch, turn a dial, etc., to get a door to open)
  • shape sorters
  • using spoons to bang on pots and pans

  • throw bits of food (e.g. stale bread) to squirrels and birds to get a better look at them

18 Months and Older

  • colouring using washable, non-toxic markers (on large paper or Bristol Board taped to a wall, taped to a table, at an easel, or on the floor)
  • finger painting with washable, non-toxic paints
  • painting with paintbrush
  • Playdough using homemade recipe ( (safer if they put it in their mouths)
  • ride-on toys 
  • sorting like objects (balls, cars, boats, books, etc.) into different containers
  • matching shapes (in puzzle, or using paper cut-outs)
  • dress-up clothes

  • chalk on sidewalk (or concrete/wood surfaces at playground)
  • ride-on toys
  • climb some playground structures, at least with assistance or spotting
  • playing with sand

2 Years and Older

  • large crayons (used on paper or colouring books)
  • regular Playdough (closely monitored - they still like to taste it now and then!)
  • pretend play scenarios (grocery store, doctor's office, pet store, etc.)
  • gluing shapes to paper using fingers or Popsicle stick
  • jigsaw puzzles with large, yet few, pieces (12 piece puzzles are good to start with)
  • roll ball back and forth to adult partner (or car/truck)
  • colour sorting by putting objects into containers of same colour, onto construction paper of same colour, or simply by making distinct groups or piles of objects)
  • helping to pour or stir during baking or cooking activities

  • chalk on sidewalk

2.5 Years and Older

  • having child blow bubbles while you hold wand
  • roll ball or toy truck back and forth to child of same age or older

  • little or no spotting or assistance needed in climbing playground structures

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Totstock in Roncesvalles

Last Sunday Dan and I took Noah to the 3rd annual Totstock. What is Totstock, you ask? It is an afternoon festival for children which brings together families in the area, and supports the local culture. Although admission is free, there is a cost for the games, and donations are welcomed. Proceeds from this year's Totstock went to the West End Food Coop. It was held at Sorauren Park, which is located in Roncesvalles Village (west end Toronto). 
Noah loves music, so the first thing we did was sat down on the grassy hill and listened to a few local bands. The line-up was eclectic; from indie, to oldies, to rock. There were a variety of musical instruments as well. Noah was captivated, of course! 
Brent Bambury of CBC radio, who emceed the event, proudly stated that Totstock was making a very small carbon footprint. The generator for the electrical equipment on stage was powered by different groups of cyclists located immediately beside the stage. 
The baseball diamond was filled with empty cardboard boxes of all shapes and sizes. Kids were having fun constructing with these big, light building blocks! They made bridges, towers, tables and houses, among other things. Crayons were available for kids to decorate their structures.
The rest of the fair consisted of different tents that were set up, offering food, games and activities. This was definitely Noah's favourite activity. A very laid back and approachable music teacher gave casual ukulele lessons to kids. There were about 4 or 5 ukuleles on hand for kids to practise with. Noah did not tire of this activity quickly, so I finally encouraged him to give his ukulele to one of the children patiently waiting for a turn. He very chivalrously walked over and handed his musical instrument to the little girl....
...and then patiently waited for another ukulele to become free. The teacher sang songs (very well, I may add) while playing her ukulele, and Noah couldn't help but to jam with her.
The Leap Frog game pictured above looked a little too advanced for someone of Noah's age. The tent with dress-up clothes was busy, and looked like lots of fun, but Noah opted out of this activity. Maybe he feels that he gets plenty of dress-up time at home! 
There were other games like the Bean Bag Toss, and Tennis Racket Races. Noah decided to try his luck with the Penny Toss. He succeeded at throwing the penny onto one of the circles, although he did repeatedly ignore requests to stay behind the line! He won a bracelet and a few stickers.
That was what was so great about these carnival-style games run by the community: everyone got a prize, no matter what. And at least you knew that your $2 (to play the game) was going to a good cause.
Noah sat at the story-telling tent for a while, where they had a special guest appearance from Winnie the Pooh. Similar to his statement about the big Sesame Street characters at Busch Gardens, he said "I a little bit scared of Pooh Bear." It's funny how when we brought up our trip to Totstock later that day, and in the following days, it was the giant Pooh Bear that he remembered first. I guess fear trumps all other emotions in making human memories most vivid and strong. 
Noah waited in line to try the ring toss. After a solid effort on all three throws he got yet another bracelet and sticker. I loved how most of the games and activities were run by kids and preteens. They looked proud to be a part of running such an exciting event for the little ones. And they should be! Some of the other games and activities offered were: Fishing Pond, Silly Putty, Nail Painting, Rythmic Gymnastics Wands, Dance Lessons and Kite Making. "Your Neighbourhood" consisted of a table-top map of the area, and provided materials that people could use to creatively mark different locations in their community. There was also a table with various items for sale, and this is where I bought Noah a pinwheel and a children's kite. We tried to to fly it in the big open space beside the festival, but there wasn't quite enough wind to keep it up for long.
Since it was in plain view from the festival, Noah wanted to hit the playground across the street. Like the playground at Vine Parkette, Sorauren Park playground had lots of ride-on toys that belonged to the park. What made it even better was the little dirt hill the kids could ride these vehicles down! Noah spent a lot of time getting into, and out of this little toy car.
I remember my nieces doing the exact same thing with the one my mom had bought for them. It was a far more enjoyable activity than actually driving the car. Seeing Noah do this made me smile. There was something so cute about watching him get out of the car, and closing the door behind him.
We returned to the festival in time to see a group of young rockers who call themselves "Eleven Toes". Their cover of Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World", Kiss's "I Wanna Rock and Roll All Night", and "Eh, Oh, Let's Go!" by the Ramones really got the crowd singing along. Noah loved it. 

Totstock ended with a parade, though we had to leave shortly before this finale. We were definitely glad we checked out this event, and hope to return next year!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Crafts for Kids: Father's Day Keepsake Photo Magnet

  • regular children's paint
  • paper plate
  • cut-out photograph of child's face, measuring approximately 5cm in diameter (from one side of the circle to the other)
  • white construction paper
  • magnetic adhesive sheets (I bought the "Elmer's" brand from Walmart)
  • ball point pen
  • scissors
  1. Draw a circle on the Bristol Board that measures approximately 9cm across (diameter). (There are probably glasses or mugs, or other objects in your home that will help you draw a perfect circle.)
  2. Cut the circle out. 
  3. Ask the child which colour of paint she would like to use for her Father's Day flower. Squirt some of that colour onto a paper plate. 
  4. Help the child to dip their thumb (or index finger, if you prefer) into the paint. Then, have them continually make thumb prints all along the outside of the circle, dipping their thumb for more paint as needed. Let dry.
  5. Tape the back of the photograph securely to the centre of the Bristol Board circle. There should be a small space between the photo and the thumb prints. Starting right above the upper left side of the photo, write "Happy Daddy's Day" and include the year.
  6. Laminate it. (It is not expensive at all to laminate these at Staples.)
  7. Cut the circle out from the laminated page. Make sure to cut 1/2 a centimetre from the edge of the Bristol Board, so that it doesn't rip open.
  8. Cut out a large square from the magnetic sheet to fit on the back of the circle.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Toronto Zoo

Last Saturday, Dan's work hosted a family event at the Metro Toronto Zoo. We invited Noah's daycare buddy, Aidas, and his mother, Aldona, to join us. The kids had an absolute blast! We were a little worried about an impending thunder shower, but luckily it held off long enough for us to get four solid hours in.
This is the first pavilion we went into, in the Indo-Malayan region of the zoo. We saw a sleeping leopard and a few long green snakes. It was exciting to see the kids' faces as they realized the animals they so often see in their books at home really do exist!
At the bigger of the two pavilions in this area, the boys saw turtles and fish.They talked about which fish they liked best. Not surprisingly, Noah said he liked the yellow fish best, while Aidas said the orange and red ones were his favourites. Those are their respective favourite colours.
In the same building, we also saw orangutans and pygmy hippos. Pygmy's are smaller versions of the regular hippo, and extremely cute, I thought. Just outside the pavilion we saw my favourite animal, the elephant. It was recently decided that the elephants will be leaving the zoo for an environment that better suits their needs. ( It is not entirely clear when this will happen. Although I will miss seeing them there, I cannot disagree with a decision that will allow them to live happier, healthier lives.
The boys spent much of their time out of their strollers, walking. They especially enjoyed the ramps, which they also called roller coasters. (Any hill they descend lately is called a roller coaster.) They were interested in seeing the animals. However, upon seeing each animal, Noah would say "Let's see more animals", so they were more excited about the adventure of it all. 
On the car ride up (which we all took together), Noah restated that his favourite animal is the zebra. Aidas declared that his favourite is the peacock. 
While walking down one of the zoo paths, Aidas spotted a golf cart parked off to the side. Animals? Who cares about animals?! They hopped inside and had a good time pretending. Their fun ended when a couple of zoo employees came back to reclaim their vehicle. The workers were not amused with this shenanigan. Oh well, at least we got some cute photos before we were busted!
The Law Society of Upper Canada (Dan's employer) provided a free lunch. Here the boys are, with their appetizer of potato chips. They later moved on to hamburgers, pizza, and Popsicles.
Then we were off to see more animals. We spent our entire time in the African Savanna area. In the top left picture Noah and I are checking out the antelope. In the picture to the right, the boys are getting a good look at the baboons.
Although Noah and Aidas had fun seeing the animals, they also thoroughly enjoyed the more 'hands-on' activities. They hid behind rocks, crawled through pretend hollow logs, and danced around in tents (which I presume are there for summer camps).
A good chunk of time was spent climbing around in the zebra trucks. It must have been pretty cool, from their perspective, to be able to hop into the back of a truck! 
We were finally able to drag them away so we could see more animals! We saw lions (whom Noah and I labeled Simba and Nala) and warthogs (one of whom we named Pumba). Noah is a big fan of the Lion King movie, book and music.

Having covered maybe half of the zoo, we got the kids onto one ride of the carousel before we rushed out to avoid the rain. It was Aidas's first time on a ride. Although he was a little spooked, I thought he was very brave considering it was a brand new experience.

I do have a couple of pictures of the part of the zoo we did not see, from last year's trip. There are pony rides, which Noah really enjoyed. I would like to do that with him if we go again later this year.
I also recall that there were some more hands-on activities in the Eurasia region. The picture below, of Noah with his brother Jacob, and cousins Kacey and Mackenzie, was taken in one of the caves in this area of the zoo.
At the Stingray Bay exhibit, you can touch stingrays, and see sharks. And, although I've never been, I think the addition of the water play area a few years ago was one of the zoo's greatest ideas. Kids need some relief from the heat if they visit on a stinking hot summer's day. 

For more information about the Toronto Zoo, you can visit their website at: