Simple Easter Egg Activities for Toddlers, Part 1

 

As you know, I’m all about the cheap and easy around here. I need activities that don’t cost much money to create, because the twins go through activities every hour and I’m not that rich. But I also need activities that don’t cost too much of my time, because I’m working full-time and I don’t have any minutes to spare.

This post contains affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase using these links, I will receive a percentage of the profits. 

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What we do have in my house (with PLENTY to spare) are Easter eggs. We have SO many of them. They’re kind of the best toy around, I think. After pompoms, of course (I need to do a round up pompom post!). There’s just so much you can DO with Easter eggs, and they’re really quite inexpensive (get a big batch of them HERE). So last weekend I went on a mission to play with the eggs for two days straight to see how many cheap, simple games we could play. As Sunday drew to a close, we managed to squeeze in six activities – with many more we could have done. I geared these activities towards my twins’ age, 20 months – but honestly, you can practice reading and math skills for older kids with the eggs and babies can play with them as well. They’re a very versatile toy that should be used all year round.

Instead of bringing you all six in one post, I’m splitting them up, three and three. This is Part 1 of the no-prep games we played with Easter eggs. Part 2 will be coming soon!

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This game was unbelievably simple, fun and FREE. The twins never had a ramp before, and even after it was used for eggs, they sent their cars, blocks and balls down to see what would happen. I got the idea here, and we modeled it pretty close to the original. I dug in the garage and found a sturdy old box. My husband kindly folded down and taped the sides, so the eggs would slide straight down the box. Then I set it up against the couch, gave the twins the eggs and let them play. It took them a few minutes to figure out how it worked, but once they got it, they thoroughly enjoyed letting the eggs sail.

DSC_0041 DSC_0061Such a simple concept, and sometimes those are the ones that are the most fun! Even after they got tired of racing the eggs, they practiced their newest skills, under and over. 

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DSC_0674Another FREE activity that needed NO prep time whatsoever. It happened by accident, actually. I was getting set up for something else and then the twins asked for a pot. I tossed in the eggs and remembered I had some plastic ice cream dishes in the basement. The cups matched the eggs and an activity was born. I put out the cups and asked the twins to help put the eggs in the cups. They did the rest!

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C delightfully pondered which cup to put the eggs in, and as she did so I’d ask her to name the colors. I’m finding C is really into gross motor activities, and she loved dancing around the pot as she chose her eggs.

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B enjoyed opening and closing the eggs (a great fine motor skill, even for younger toddlers!), and then sorting them into the cups.

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After the cups were filled, C dumped them and started over again!

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This third (FREE!) Easter egg activity we did involved about two minutes of prep time. I first saw the idea here.  Another set of toys we aren’t in short supply of are magnetic letters. We must have at least 3 sets. HERE’s a 72-piece package that’s super cheap! It’ll hold you for a while! I pre-stuffed the Easter eggs with the magnetic letters and then grabbed a cookie sheet.

This activity was fun and educational for the twins on a few levels. First, they loved opening each egg and being surprised by the letters they saw. Of course, they had to shout out what they found.

Now, this activity could be modified – if your kids didn’t know their letters yet, or getting their letter practice on was too easy, you could stuff the eggs with a variety of other things – like cut out shapes from construction or foam paper, colored circles to review colors, individual beans to count and sort, etc.

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After the twins shared what letters they had discovered, they enjoyed sticking their letters onto the cookie sheet. Toddlers love magnets!

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After they emptied all the eggs, I would go and refill them as they were playing with the cookie sheet. I have since separated out 26 eggs and stored them, stuffed with letters, in a separate bag so that whenever we travel to a relative’s house, we can just bring the bag all ready to go.

As I said, these were three of the six Easter egg activities we did over the weekend. All were a success and could be done year round! Stay tuned for Part 2, and if you haven’t already, come over and like my new Facebook page. I post not only my own activities but also the best toddler crafts and activities from around the internet!

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What are tot trays?

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Lately, I’ve been on a wild ride. One that I’ve created. See, when I get excited about something new – I focus on that one thing exclusively for weeks with giddy anticipation for the creation of whatever I’m doing. It started last summer, with DIY sensory boards and a spaghetti sensory bin because – I was on maternity leave, and why not, it would be cute to watch. Then it took off from there. I found myself reading about sensory bins, learning towers, and skills that teach toddlers independence. B, throughout his tantrums, took a liking to all of those things and I realized, we have the need in my house. The same old toys and free play all day won’t work for them, especially B. He needs stimulation, he needs a variety of experiences, and he needs to do things on his own. I found myself drawn to toys that let the twins explore on their own and figure out concepts independently, like our treasure baskets and sensory bottles, rather than those toys that did all that for them.

Then my blog took a turn, focusing on activities and crafts, because that’s my life at home right now – that’s what the twins do. I don’t know what direction this blog will go in the future but it’s my hobby and I enjoy it. And whatever the twins are interested in, I’m interested in. I made buckle pillows and zipper boards (posts coming soon!). I got a sewing machine for Christmas. I got so pumped about all these little things I couldn’t sleep at night. I even got my husband into it, as he’s still making those learning towers (they won’t be done until spring, unfortunately!). And then, I stumbled upon the Montessori Method. I’m not the kind of person who throws all the eggs into one basket – there are many correct ways to do things. HOWEVER. I knew nothing about Montessori, except that it was an expensive preschool. I still don’t know much about it, so this post isn’t about that. But what I have found is that everything B needs, everything that my husband and I believe in (independence at a young age, discovery, problem-solving, etc)….matches the Montessori method, almost to a T. We had no idea. As I read more about it, I’m really in agreement with so many of the Montessori concepts. My twins are only 19 months; they aren’t going to preschool for quite a while. So I wanted to implement something at home that resembled “preschool learning” because the twins love to learn new things.

Since I’m focusing mainly on cheap, simple toys (which typically do fit within a Montessori-type activity), I hosted a Busy Bag Exchange back in December (another future post). The bags were great but I wanted more.

So just recently, through a Montessori lens, I discovered tot trays. And fell madly in love with them. As far as I can tell, “Tot Trays” were coined by Carisa at 1+1+1=1. Her website is loaded with ideas – more than I could ever search through in one night. But the idea is quite simple, and very much like a busy bag. Basically, the child does an activity; a simple, cheap, educational activity on a tray. I just bought trays but when I tried tot trays for the first time, I didn’t have them and used a cookie sheet instead. The activities are not meant to last hours and hours (though bonus points if they do!) – they are short activities that reinforce skills – everything from math or language arts skills to practical life skills (like practicing pouring water into a cup, or picking up things with tongs, or scooping with spoons). It can be anything really, so long as it fits on a tray. It’s not complicated and it doesn’t need to be over-thought. Many people do tot tray activities without knowing they have a name. The idea with the tray is that the child will be responsible for it. As soon as they are able, they will carry the tray with the activity on it over to the floor or a table and return it when the activity is over. From a practical standpoint, trays have raised edges, and raised edges keep messes from going everywhere! I just adore them.

A few weeks ago when it was (shocker) snowing again, we needed something different and quick after nap. I decided to implement our first two tot trays, back to back. First, we started with a color matching tot tray. I printed out the color sorting mat from here, grabbed an old cookie sheet and the large sized pompoms I already had. After realizing I only had one cookie sheet, I ended up giving the babies their coloring mats on the table with a container of pompoms for each of them. Their only job was to take the pompoms and match them to the corresponding colors on the mat.

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They did it in about two seconds. I don’t know if that’s good or bad! That’s the thing with tot trays – I mean, I obviously started them with one that was not a challenge for them, which made the activity short. I would imagine the goal is to challenge them at least a little bit. I love the many skills being applied here – knowing the colors, but also identifying letters, feeling textures, and the fine motor skills necessary to place pompoms on a small circle. B was especially into this tot tray, and kept trying to get the pompoms to stick to the paper. (I added pink, white and black pompoms at first because I knew they knew those colors – but when your mat doesn’t have those colors on it? Yeah – don’t do that. Lesson learned!) B practiced saying the colors a few times.

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And that was it for our first tot tray! Luckily, I had one more planned. I grabbed two sheets of plain paper and as this was around Valentine’s Day, I drew a big heart on each paper. Then, on the “tray”, I gave the babies a sheet of heart stickers and two Dollar Tree crayons. So simple and so cheap! My kind of activity!

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I tried to get the twins to put the stickers “inside the heart”. That didn’t work out exactly, but that’s okay. C was especially into this tray. She is madly in love with stickers right now – they both are. I had to peel them off for her but she stuck every one down and then went to town with the coloring.

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She couldn’t stop smiling through the multiple sheets of stickers she went through! She really had to work her fine motor skills around pulling stickers off my fingers and then sticking them onto paper.

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This tot tray lasted much longer than the first one, which was nice. When they were done, we hung them up on the slider with our other heart crafts. My first introduction to tot trays was a success. I’m not sure how I’m going to post about them and organize them here on this blog, but I plan to do many more tot trays with them in the future. Next up – learning to carry a tray!

On a side note, I won’t have a blog post about this one but my nanny made amazingly adorable weather sensory bottles.

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This picture is not my best work, but the bottles demonstrate “snowy”, “windy”, “rainy”, “sunny”, and “cloudy”. I’ve just set up a Facebook page and there you can find the link where my nanny found the idea!

Valentine’s Alphabet Matching Game

 

Edited: This post contains affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase using these links, I will receive a percentage of the profits. 

Well, once again we’ve been stuck in the house, as blizzard #87 came and went over the past few days. Honestly – I have always loved snow and cold weather. But that was back when I could appreciate the silence and peacefulness a fresh snow brings, or when I could still leave the house whenever I wanted, or when I was young enough to put on my snow pants and flop down in it. Nowadays, there’s nothing silent in my life ever, the temperatures are in the negatives so we can’t go run errands or leave the house, and the snow is layered higher than the height of my twins, so no, I can’t enjoy the snow and therefore wish for it to go away. We have had six snow days in a month or so and have averaged a big storm once a week. On a positive note, there have been plenty of opportunities for us to try out some fun, cheap, educational activities.

The twins and I have been on a Valentine’s Day kick lately. We enjoyed Valentine’s Day Soup in a water bin, a peppermint-scented Valentine’s Day themed rice bin, and played with Valentine’s Day colored pom-poms. I decided to finish up our Valentine’s Day activities with a few more over the weekend.

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Yesterday, we played a Valentine’s Day alphabet matching game. I got the idea here and loved it as soon as I saw it. The twins know most of their letters and love to point them out. Plus, it wasn’t messy, and best of all, it was FREE.

I have a roll of butcher paper that has so far been well worth the purchase, (you can find it HERE) and cut a long piece of it for this activity. I also had some pink and red construction paper, which I cut into hearts and wrote the uppercase letters of the alphabet on. The night before I planned to use it with the twins, I laid the hearts down along the butcher paper and traced them with a sharpie. Note – sharpie runs through, and I almost learned that the hard way. Luckily, I remembered in time and slid an extra piece of construction paper underneath the butcher paper to avoid writing on the wood floor.

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When I was done, I had 26 hearts traced onto butcher paper with the letters of the alphabet on them and 26 red and pink hearts to match.

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The next day I set it up. We have a small house, so to get the space I needed I had to move the dining room table. Now – I keep trying activities with my 19 month old twins (as of yesterday!) that are typically used with 2+ year olds. I imagine that 3 year olds don’t try and tear off the ground or table whatever you stick there, or immediately take what you’ve been creating for them and crumple it into a ball. Or maybe they do. Whatever the case, I waited until the twins were in another room playing to tape the butcher paper down to the floor with painter’s tape (the best invention ever). I had to be quick about it – they would step all over it and crinkle it up before I even got it taped down.

When it was ready, I called them in to check it out. As is the case with almost every single activity I throw at them, C is only interested for a few minutes, then goes to play elsewhere and comes back later on, while B puts all of his attention and interest in whatever he is supposed to do. He really loves a new activity and the new stimulation that comes with it.

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They both enjoyed identifying the letters, which is what I hoped for. They were almost overstimulated, with the letters written twice for them and so close together. But they had fun pointing them out.

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I was able to bring in the hearts to school a few days ago, and during recess a few of my fifth graders started drawing on the backs of the hearts with a picture that corresponds to the letter. They weren’t able to get all of them done, but B enjoyed checking out the car on the back of the “C” heart.

As for the matching – C had already taken off and checked in every few minutes, but she wasn’t interested in trying to line up the letters. B was very interested. The only problem was that he wanted the hearts to stick to the paper when he found a match. He would slide the hearts down the butcher paper, line them up and be disappointed that they moved again so easily. I can understand – it was almost like a puzzle, but it wasn’t. Thinking about it now, I could add a little piece of velcro to the butcher paper and the hearts, and then they would stick. Next time!

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I would absolutely consider it a success, though I’ve rolled up the butcher paper and clipped the hearts to save for next year. My kids were on the young end of being able to do what the activity is meant for, but they still had a great time with letter identification.

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