Learning at home + activity corner

Lately, I’ve been trying to think of new activities Liv and I can do at home.

We do a lot, but I feel like it’s a lot of the same things- puzzles, books, toys, songs and adventures out to play dates, baby gym and story time.

We’re also big fans of the zoo:

Zoo  1 of 1

While we have a blast together, I think it would be fun to switch things up, especially since she’s learning so much so quickly.

I’d love to do some art projects and cooking with her, or work on language skills since before the age of 2 is an ideal time to introduce a new language to a baby. (Her nanas speak in Spanish often, but I could do a much better job at usual it around the house.)

Since I’ve been feeling kind of stumped, I researched a little to see what would be fun to do at home. 

Here are some of the ideas I’ve found:

1) Food preparation. Last week, Livi “helped” me make sweet potato fries and got a kick out of it. We can do things like this more often, and while she’s in her high chair, I can give her more ingredients with the spices in a large baggie and let her help mash them around. Another idea I found online is to help your toddler spread jam on toast (which is perfect, since it’s one of her beloved snacks) and making baked apples- you give the toddler the apples to help wash, spread butter on the apples and bake them whole.

2) Shape matching. They have cute sets on Etsy, but I think with some felt and the handy glue gun, I could easily make our own sets. Livi knows a few colors, and we’ve started to talk about shapes lately -she loves puzzles- and this would be a fun switch up from story time.

3) Finger painting. The last few times we’ve done this was quite a long time ago- time bust out the finger paints again. 

4) Homemade play dough – surprisingly easy to make

5) 50 toddler activities. <– so many great ones on this list!

6) 75 TV free activities– another great list

We’re going to make the side of our den Livi’s corner and put a shelf with puzzles, a basket of toys to explore and books to read. I’d also love to get her a little table and chairs (similar to the set Sabrina got) so she can draw and snack at her own little table. Right now she has a basket of toys downstairs, but I think it will be fun to have her own little play area. 

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(Photo source)

Any fun ideas for play or at-home learning with a toddler?


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  1. Libby on February 7, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    Pinterest has sooo many great ideas if you search Montessori. As a Montessori teacher, I know kids just want to be part of our adult society. Cutting a sponge small enough to fit in their hand…warm soapy bubbles and let her clean up her spot at the table or the floor while you’re cooking.

    • Fitnessista on February 7, 2013 at 6:53 pm

      ok, thank you so much! we’re most likely going to go the montessori route for preschool but would like implement strategies here at home, too

      • Leslie on February 7, 2013 at 8:05 pm

        We went with tons of Montessori ideas too. We are actually homeschooling through preschool and maybe through the lower half of elementary and are implementing a lot of Montessori philosophies.

        I love Montessori because it really does help kiddos learn real life stuff, and brings together learning from sight/doing/thinking/listening/etc….

    • janis on February 9, 2013 at 6:41 pm

      I was just going to post the same suggestion! I am a Montessori PreK teacher. Gina, you will love Montessori ideas for the home, start with links from Pinterest and go from there. I KNOW you’ll love the ideas.

  2. Rose on February 7, 2013 at 7:05 pm

    I gave my 2-year-old niece a membership for the toddler-magazine Pippo. Its full of little stories to read together, little do-it-yourself projects and great tips for activities. Each magazine had a theme (for example the zoo, or ‘bedtime’), so she learns a lot!
    It’s something she looks out for all week, because she knows the magazine is totally for her!
    Unfortunately I live in Holland so the magazine is in Dutch… But maybe you’ll find something similar?

  3. Kayla's Drawings. on February 7, 2013 at 7:16 pm

    My toddler has always LOVED painting (or anything art).. one of our favorites is to put paint in ziplock bags (I get 6 bags and put different colors in each bag) and tape them to the table and let them “Draw” with their fingers. It has kept him entertained for HOURS. And for painting, its completely mess-free (insert hallelujah chorus). You can even store the paint zip locks if you make sure there is no air in them, and they last for a while.

    When my son was about 15 months ish, we also got him a sandbox with some fun toys (aka old kitchen utensils) and he’s been a huge fan of the sandbox for about 2 years!

    I love your ideas, they inspire me to get more creative with my rambunctious boys.

  4. Sabrina on February 7, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    Raffi sits at his table all the time and in general chairs that are their size are big hits!

    We do “sensory play” with Cheerios where I put a big bowl of cheerios out along with spoons, measuring cups, etc and let him go crazy. When I do ANY errand in the house I have him help me (cleaning, prepping meals, washing the floors) – he loves that. Oh and when I bake I always put ingredients in all of our measuring cups and let him pour them out. And on rainy days I build forts out of our couch and let him be a monkey and climb everything.

  5. Karissa on February 7, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    Ah my mom used to make us homemade play-dough all the time- and she let us help! (That was one of the best parts of play dough!) I think it’s so awesome that you try to involve your daughter in “adult” life- that, to me, is SO COOL! (I don’t have kids but love this idea, it was something I was “treated to” a lot growing up- when the other kiddos wanted an easy bake oven, I didn’t quite get the big deal cause my mom, aunt, and Oma let me cook with them for real ha ha!)
    So encouraging to read how much you care about your little one! Makes me smile. 🙂

  6. Kristen on February 8, 2013 at 7:09 am

    It sounds you’re already doing a lot of really great activities with her for play/learning. I wouldn’t get too caught up in trying to teach her everything. Honestly, God knew what he was doing was doing when he made us. She’ll learn just from watching, exploring, and being around others in general. I’m not saying not to keep helping her learn new things. It’s fun to do that. Sometimes though, kids just want to be to be kids without the pressure of making everything a “learning experience.”
    Just don’t rush the growing up. So she might not know the Spanish language by the time she’s 3 years old. I think she’ll still make it into kindergarten 😉
    That being said, my almost 1 yr old LOVES to climb the stairs! Obviously I am right there with him. We do it several times a day. It entertains him and mama gets a little leg workout!
    He also likes to knock things down so I purposely stack things randomly throughout the house and he goes to each stack and works until its all on the floor…success! Haha

  7. Cassie Vaughn on February 8, 2013 at 9:33 am

    Great ideas! I love the zoo too!

  8. ErikaMC on February 8, 2013 at 11:08 am

    Finger painting on a canvas – I tape out a design and then pull it off when it dries.
    Stirring in pots and pans and bowls.
    Pipe cleaners in colanders.
    Pop up tunnel to crawl through – huge hit at our house!
    Matching game – match up pictures.

  9. Jess on February 8, 2013 at 11:20 am

    Is it just me or does Liv look about 7 years old in that picture?! Ah she’s getting so big so fast! Too adorable!

  10. Melodie on February 8, 2013 at 11:26 am

    since my oldest was about 18 months old, i started our “Tonka Truck Car Wash”. it was not my original idea, i found it through another mommy blog. but now at ages 3 and 4, my boys still love to do this. it is a favorite activitiy. i fill a plastic kitchen bowl for each of them with soapy water (lots of bubbles), then i give them some sort of scrubber and a water spray bottle and i lay it all on top of a dry towel (which quickly gets soaked). so they soap up their little Tonka cars, scrub them clean, spray them down with the clean water and then lay them on the towel to dry. it’s just a bonus that it also gets their toys all clean. they just love playing in the water, so this is always a hit. Olivia probably doesn’t have Tonka trucks. 🙂 so you could buy a small pack or instead she could give her plastic baby dolls a bath, maybe? my best friend has a 3 year old little girl and she loves toy cars and trucks and has her only little collection. 🙂

    there is also a book called Ktichen Table Play and Learn. it is for preschool at home but it’s full of great activities.

  11. Tori on February 8, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    Homemade playdough is so easy to make! I have made it many time while babysitting and with my kindergarteners at school!

    Also, I had my kindergarteners make various things out of the playdough (which I made with just flour and no food coloring) then we left them out to dry so they had something to paint later. That can be an easy activity with more than one step to keep a few days full of activity 🙂

  12. Tiffany L on February 8, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    Sensory bottles! Look them up online.
    Ziplock baggies filled with items and taped to a table top. Great activity for working on colors, letters, and language skills. It’s like wheres waldo in a baggie!
    File folder games
    Sensory buckets – smaller toys hidden in a bucket full of rice, beans, sand, pasta – the options are endless and cheap! Just make sure to do this outside or on tile for easier clean up!

  13. cathy on February 8, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    http://www.momto2poshlildivas.com/ This is my friend’s blog. She’s a preschool teacher and loads of fun ideas. 🙂

  14. Abby on February 8, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    Mamapapabubba.com is an excellent resource for toddler play, she had all kinds of awesome ideas for sensory boxes and other educational play that she does with her little girl. Definitely worth checking out!

    • Fitnessista on February 8, 2013 at 4:53 pm

      awesome, thank you!

  15. Brittany @ Kitchen::Candid on February 8, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    When my niece was 2 years old she was already using an iPad by herself. There are loads of apps for toddlers…and she LOVES them. But it was pretty surreal to see her just bust out an iPad and start playing a game. 🙂

  16. Barb on February 9, 2013 at 8:41 am

    Hi Gina! I actually have my degree in Early Childhood Education and the first thing I wanted to tell you was that no matter WHAT Liv is doing, she is learning SO much. Playing with toys? She is learning color recognition, developing a curiosity of the world, large and small motor skills and so much more. So don’t feel like what you are doing “isn’t enough”! When looking for an academic preschool, Montessori is great, but many “new” preschools incorporate their values and other researchers values into their curriculum. When it is time to find a preschool, shoot me an email! 🙂

    With that being said, at age 1 and 2 we really focus on independence, socialization and language development. Some fun things that are great and we promote in our classrooms:

    File Folder Games http://www.filefolderfun.com/

    Use Fine Motor Skills – painting with different items (sponges, fingers, run cars through paint then on paper, glue and sand drawing, play dough – make it, it’s edible, painting with yogurt, drawing on the table with whipped cream ect.

    Curiosity about the environment – Set up a small tub and fill it with water and fun toys from the kitchen (funnel, spoons, other items) and let her play in it! You could also fill this small tub with ice cubes (even cooler if colored!!!), sand, paper shredding, anything else really!

    Plant something! Have her help you!!!

    Really, the best thing is to talk about EVERYTHING you are doing – from cooking to walking to using your fingers, to touching your hair and belly button. Language development is HUGE right now! Also, as cute as it is for her to say words that are “cute” don’t be afraid to tell her what the REAL word is..Ell-Moh, Say Elmo.

    Sorry this was a book, hope it helps!

    • Fitnessista on February 10, 2013 at 3:02 pm

      so many fantastic ideas- i can’t wait to do some of these!

  17. Amy on February 9, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    Gina——your blog is super fun, inspiring and full of good info………………your family is so cute! Thanks for sharing so much!

    • Fitnessista on February 10, 2013 at 3:01 pm

      thank you for reading! <3

  18. Joanne @ A Nicer Choice on February 9, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    Sometimes, despite all the toys and activities available, my three toddlers just want to do whatever I’m doing!

    If I’m cleaning, I give them a clean cloth and some unbreakable things to clean, they like ‘helping’ to sweep or vacuum and they love helping with dinner prep. They can help laying the table or loading the dishwasher. They’re also great (varying by ages) at helping to sort laundry and my youngest loves to load the washing machine.

    Other than that, jigsaws, building blocks and books are always a hit with all three.

  19. Jenn on February 10, 2013 at 2:45 pm

    Do you not have an issue with her trying to put everything in her mouth? I would love to try these things but it seems that cant be avoided with us..

    • Fitnessista on February 10, 2013 at 2:54 pm

      we do, but when she tries to eat something that’s not food, i say, “not to eat” and she stops.
      before, i’d have to say it 3 times and then take it away, but she got the hang out it really quickly.

  20. Anna {Herbivore Triathlete} on February 11, 2013 at 9:39 am

    I don’t have much to add, I think all my suggestions have been covered by other commenters. I do agree though that at her age she is learning constantly! I agree that talking about everything you are doing, seeing, touching, smelling, etc. is great. Also, teaching words or correcting words to be pronounced the right way. It’s a huge pet peeve of mine when kids who are 5-6 years old talk “baby talk”. It’s not cute! They obviously were never taught the correct way to say the words.

    Anyways, I think you are doing a fantastic job with LIvi and it shows through your posts how much you love and care for her.

  21. laura on February 11, 2013 at 10:03 am

    I made “Memory” games for my girls out of pictures of family members, pets and close friends. Just glued the pictures on to pretty cardstock. They loved it!

  22. Jamie @ hands on : as we grow on February 11, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    Hey! Thanks so much for sharing our Toddler Activities list! There are so many great ideas there to get you started – but really, just doing anything with your kids leads to some fun hands on activities!

    Are you on G+? I was trying to find you there.

    • Fitnessista on February 11, 2013 at 9:53 pm

      no i’m late to the bandwagon haha 🙂

  23. Katie on February 18, 2013 at 8:16 am

    Great ideas! My friend has a blog where she is documenting a “365 days of unplugged play” challenge with her little girl. She just started in the new year but has some more fun ideas. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with over the rest of the year!


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