Tag Archives: toddler activities

Playing with her food and other language learning fun…

V goofing around with her Alphatots!

What kid doesn’t love French fries?  I know my daughter does; her fave meal is “chick and friesss.”  So when I found Ian’s Alphatots fries in the local market the other day, I grabbed a pack from the frozen section.  Gluten free, egg free, milk-free, they are great for kids with allergy or dietary issues. V helped put them on the baking sheet to bake and when ready, we sat down at the table to enjoy.  She pulled each letter out of the Pyrex container, saying the ones she knows (I, O, G, M) and guessing at others until I gave her the correct answer.  This is a fun and tasty way to practice our letters.  Alphabet pasta is another fun option; unfortunately, our box is still sitting in our cupboard waiting to join my next soup, as V opted not to eat the tiny, tiny letters.

I am not an advocate of flashcards; they seem too pushy for children less than 2 (or even older).  We have a few packs of flashcards with Space and Dinosaur pictures and themes that V likes to sort through and ask questions about.  This method feels fine to me, because it is self-initiated and unpressured.  We do have one pack of alphabet flashcards graciously given to us by one of V’s grandparents.  I will offer V the opportunity to play and explore them, but do not think it is developmentally appropriate to perform drilling exercises with toddler age kiddos.  On the other hand, textured letters, which toddlers can trace with their fingers, offer them an opportunity to have a sensory experience while learning the beginning strokes of writing.  We have not created textured cards yet, as I feel V is still a little young, but we will eventually do this craft project.  You can use index cards, Elmer’s Glue and sand or glitter to create a textured card, or you can use fabric (this is more labor intensive and adult-driven).  Felt ABC’s on a felt board are also a fun free-play experience for young children; make sure they are large enough to avoid a choking hazard.  For older children, ABC sewing cards where they can thread yarn through letter shapes is another fun project.  You can cut these out of cardboard, punch evenly spaced holes with a punch and purchase some shoelaces for easy and inexpensive lacing.  You can even have your child help you paint the cards as an art project!

In our house, we do A LOT of reading.  We started reading to V, while she was in utero.  The book of choice was “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” a book that we hoped would appeal to both my husband and my literary preferences.  It amused for a short time, but the writing was so poor, that we eventually gave it up!  These days, the reading selection is a little more child-centered, but still a huge part of our daily routine.  We read before bedtime, during potty training efforts, and on breaks through the day.  V has sat through 120+ pages of Dora the Explorer stories at one sitting, and has started to say words from some of her favorite stories on her own.  While she may not be “reading” yet, she is certainly memorizing and getting clues about the words from contexts.  She mimics the exact tone I use to read the same words in some of her favorite Duck and Goose stories by Tad Hills.  Miss Spider’s ABCs is another great kids’ book for letter learning; the colorful illustrations are captivating as well.  There are many strictly “ABC” books, but I find that V learns whole words as well from her reading experiences.

Alphabet refrigerator letters are a great way for kids to get their fingers around the shape of the letter and also get additional exposure to letters.  V likes me to put the letters in order and point to each one while we sing our ABC’s.  She also likes to sort the letters by color, and can be found carting around all the “pourple” ones in a little Easter basket she plays with.  So these can be a great tool for learning colors as well!  Sometimes we spell words together like “Mama, Dada, V’s name, Dog, Bunny, Go”.

My husband invented a fun action-based game where he uses heart signs attached to popsicle sticks to instruct her to follow certain actions:  hugs, dance, jump, stop, go, freeze, time-in.  Only a few of these signs have any additional symbols, and V can read each of the signs presented to her.  The actions associated with the words have made them fun, and she is getting reading exposure as well.

V also plays an adapted version of Eric Carle’s “The ABC Game.”  We show her a card and have her move her token to the matching letter.  She loves matching games, and LOVES playing “gamies” with Mom and Dad, so she really enjoys this.  We don’t attempt to play this game by the rules at this point, nor do we expect her to finish our version of play.  We do it as long as it remains fun, then we move on.

I know all the research shows that TV for small children is a no-no, and especially for children under 2.  But I have found that for many of us moms or dads, we need a half-hour a day to prepare a meal, take care of personal grooming, make an important phone call, or just to function.  So while I try to limit V’s TV watching, she does not live a TV free existence.  However, we do not have cable, and I think it is really important to choose V’s viewing options carefully.  WordWorld is one of the best shows I have seen for young children.  All of the characters and much of the scenery are made up of words.  The “Let’s Build A Word” song gets V moving and she also repeats some letters after them.  I caught her in the act of spelling a word while watching WordWorld one day, and I tell you, it assuaged a tiny, tiny bit of the mama guilt I feel over the TV viewing!  So if you let your child watch TV, WordWorld is a great educational option.

Each week, my husband and I pick one letter of the week to focus on.  We have a chalkboard in V’s playroom where we write all of the words we can think of beginning with the chosen letter.  We read them out loud to V when we think of it; I read that children learn words best when they hear the words from more than one person, so having a verbal household where she is exposed to lots of different words, both simple and complex, will hopefully set her up for long-term language learning.  We do this as a fun exercise for us, and maybe she’ll pick up a word or two along the way.  She does remember the letters we select for the week, and will occasionally point to the board and tell us the letter.  So she’s getting something out of it.

V likes to point out letters on t-shirts that M and I wear and sometimes she gets them right!  I think providing children many opportunities to be exposed to letters and words in a fun and nonthreatening or unpressured way is the optimum environment for language learning!  My psychology background is not in literacy, however, so you may want to do some research on your own to get additional perspectives.  From the outcomes I’m seeing with V so far, our approach to language learning seems effective; she recognizes some letters, can identify some words, and is speaking in two-three word sentences.  She is 21 months old, so I’m feeling pretty good about her learning.

I am interested to hear your thoughts and ideas about teaching letters and words to toddlers; please share any projects, games or crafts you use in your house!

Author’s Note:  Pamela is not receiving any compensation for the products discussed in the above post!  Wouldn’t that be nice!


Painting Pictures of the Universe


Starry Night


Materials:        Canvas of any size

Black acrylic paint

Glitter/silver/sparkly craft paints


Stick on glow in the dark stars


Age:  18 months+


Objectives:  motor skill development, learning about space




Have an adult paint the canvas entirely black with the black paint.  Let it dry.  Have your child use the glitter/silver/sparkly paints and paintbrushes to streak or splatter paint across the black canvas (stars/comets in space).  When the paint is dry, have your child stick the glow in the dark stars on the canvas.  Find a wall space for hanging, and you have a star scene without the messy clean up on walls or ceilings!

Twinkle, Twinkle, Mobile

Twinkle Twinkle Mobile



Yellow, white, orange construction paper

Empty paper towel tube

Ribbon or string


Hole punch

Glitter/sparkle paint, black paint optional.



Age:                18 months+ with lots of adult assistance


Objectives:  sensory exploration, motor skill development, colors, learning about space and stars




On the assorted construction paper, draw and cut out several stars of various shapes.  Punch one hole in the top of each star. Give them to your child to paint using the glitter sparkle paint. You may paint the paper towel tube if you wish (I did not during my experimental effort!).  I would paint it black to go with the theme.  Let all materials dry before proceeding. On either end of the paper towel tube, punch a hole.  Make sure the holes are on the same side of the tube, as this is where you will tie the string for hanging your mobile.  Cut various lengths of ribbon or string.  Thread them through the assorted stars and put the loops over the paper towel tube.  Cut two strings of the same length for hanging your mobile.  Tie each string to the hole on each end of the tube, making sure all your stars stay on the paper towel tube.  Tie the two strings together in the middle.  You may also use one long string and tie the two ends of the string to the holes on either side of the tube; it’s up to you.  I prefer the first way, in case I want to affix the mobile to a stationary bar that I cannot remove to loop the mobile around.  Hang your Twinkle Twinkle Mobile and enjoy!  As always, make sure your mobile is out of reach of small children due to strangulation hazards.  This project could be adapted with red,white, and blue paper to make a Fourth of July themed mobile!

Sidewalk Shape Shuffle

I’ve decided to post ideas for toddler friendly activities on my blog.  Maybe some of you will find them helpful; I know I always do!  Please feel free to share your own activity ideas in a comment section.  Not all of my ideas are original, but I will post only those that I have tried!

So…Sidewalk Shape Shuffle

Age:  18 months to 3 years (whenever your child can follow simple directions, walk, and have a basic grasp of shapes)

Materials:  A sidewalk and sidewalk chalk

Game:  Draw different shapes (triangle, circle, heart, cloud, diamond, square, rectangle…you get the picture) in large sizes on the sidewalk.  Call out the name of the shape and have your little person move to the correct shape.  It is more fun if you join along!  Even more fun if you let them call out the shapes they know;  my little person always picks “heart!”  It may sound simple to us, but trust me, V LOVES it!  If you have more than one child participating, you could have the child that gets the most shapes right in a set time limit call out the shapes for the next round (probably better for 3 year olds).

Notes:  My little one is just learning her shapes, so this is a perfect activity to keep her entertained!  I thought of this yesterday afternoon, while drawing shapes with her on our front stoop and she has played three times already.

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