Monday, July 23, 2012

Fun Boxes / Quiet Boxes

I've noticed Margaret (3) has seemed really bored with her toys of late. I try to rotate them in the playroom, but she's still been spending a lot of time ignoring the majority of them and wandering around crabby and antsy.

In effort to spice up the really fun toys she owns and give them the chance to be a star, I made up 5 "fun boxes." Each box has a few toys and activities she hasn't played with in a while but I know she will likely still get a kick out of. Every weekday morning she gets a different box, and it's hers to play with for the whole day. I rotate some of their contents each week to keep things fresh.

We've been using the fun boxes for 3 weeks now, and I'm amazed by what a huge hit they've been. The first thing she asks for upon waking is "Today's fun box, please!" She spends a good deal of her independent play time with them. All her other toys, books, and art supplies are still readily available to her. The boxes are just a way of highlighting and encouraging that independent play.

This week's boxes feature:

Lacing/Sewing Activities

Fine Motor Activities

Art Activities

Card Games
I buy flash cards from Target's Dollar Spot. She loves to use the cards for storytelling, matching games, other made-up games, or just looking at and talking about the pictures.

This week she's really into my old Eyes on Nature animal books.

A few notes:
  • I try to put one or two toys/activities I know she's crazy about, as well as a couple she hasn't shown much interest in in the past. It's amazing how the novelty of the fun box can make previously untouched toys seem so much cooler.
  • I use plastic baby food containers to corral small items within the boxes.
  • The best part of this is you can start with whatever toys/materials you have around and add more as you find good deals. She loves having a brand new trinket pop up unexpectedly in the fun box.

Here are some links to inexpensive (most are free!) homemade fun box activities we've made:
february Transferring
First Embroidery
Color Matching with Gift Bows
Magnetic Colored Popsicle Sticks
Magnetic Pom Pom Balls
Erasers and Suction Cups Activity
Paint Chip Matching Game
Uppercase and Lowercase Matching Eggs
Animal Matching Game
Pool Noodle Art
Button Snake Toy
Memory Matching Toy
Ribbons in a Bottle Toy
Clothespin Clipping Toy
Pom Pom Push Toy
Pipe Cleaner Poking Toy


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Homemade Giant Building Blocks - Lightweight and Inexpensive

One of the simplest toys I've ever made my children, and also one they think is just awesome:

Giant cardboard box building blocks

I just wrapped up a few of the empty cardboard boxes (mostly from diapers and Amazon purchases) I've been hoarding in my craft room, with inexpensive wrapping paper. The paper I used was purchased at Dollar Tree a few years ago. I'm not sure if they still stock it. It has the texture of a brown paper sack, which I thought was really nice, and it's much thicker than typical gift wrap.

They're very lightweight and easy for my toddler to pick up, stack, and - the very best part - knock down. The baby has even found himself in the avalanche path a couple of times and managed to escape injury!

We decided the boxes needed a little more color, so we're working on painting them.

I was running out of paper, so this one only got a few sheets taped over the shipping labels.

I think I'll wrap up some of the shoeboxes I have squirreled away as well and add them to the mix. The collection takes up a considerable amount of space in the playroom, but once we've had our fun with them, we'll have an unwrapping party, then fold them away for another project.