They say idle hands are the devil’s playground. Hmmmm. I beg to differ. First, two year old hands are never idle. Second, two year old hands are the devil’s playground!
Two year old hands are capable of much sweetness. They are chubby and soft and wonderful to hold, but they are often up to no good.
Our local possessor of two year old hands has discovered that school is in session, and that means Mama is sometimes not fully paying attention and he is free to explore (read, get himself into all kinds of mischief).
See, last year he napped while we did the essential subjects. This year though, he’s taken on the nasty habit of staying up until midnight if he gets even a smidge of a nap. So, we keep him up. However, he’s really too young for any kind of schooling, though he wants desperately to be a part of it all. Add to that the fact that the boy has a knack for busying himself in the most untoward ways, even if only given an unsupervised half second, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for trouble.
Really, it’s not all that much time that we’re sitting and working on core subjects, but my smart cookie knows where his window of opportunity lies, and he stores up ideas for when it comes.
Not long ago, he stuffed toilet paper down the bathroom sink and turned the water on. I had no idea until he came into the room singing gleefully, “I made a bee-youuuuu-daful waterfall!”.
The remedy? Enlist help, and do a little pre-planning.
I pulled out an old trick that I used when the older two were little, only it’s made better now, because I have assistants.
We call them busy bags.
They are gallon sized bags, each with a delightful preschooler activity, deisgned to inspire, to teach, or just to keep him occupied for 10 stinking minutes and, more pointedly, away from the plumbing. I got the ideas and wrote them down years ago, from various sources online and off. I’ve since lost track of where I found them, so if your idea is here, the plaigerism is unintentional.
You see, while I work with one boy, the other helps his littlest brother pick out a bag and say, string noodles,
or transfer colored water from hole to hole with a baby nasal aspirator.
It’s kind of cool actually. Our littlest man is beside us, engaged with us, learning, playing and a part of things. Plus, his brothers get the benefit of taking on some responsibility and fostering those “patience with young people” skills.
Below is a list of some of the contents of our busy bags. I hope it helps provide some safe exploration for the little hands in your house too. Or, if you don’t have little hands, consider this: I once made a box of 12 or so busy bags, decorated the box, and gave it to a 3 year old as a birthday gift. Her parents said she played with the stuff in it much longer than the rest of the beeping, flashing toys that she received.
* Playdough, with plastic cutlery, cookie cutters and a garlic press. We like to make our own and put cinnamon or some other smell good spice in it. Be sure your little persom knows that it shouldn’t be eaten, no matter how tasty it smells.
*Yarn and a pair of scissors. The boy loves to cut to his heart’s content.
*Colored paper and a glue stick. If he’s not cutting, he very much likes tearing and gluing.
*Fat pasta to thread on shoelaces.
* Follow the dots pages and crayons. – We make these up. They are kind of like connect the dots, but they don’t always make a picture. Even more fun, is to draw only two for him to connect. Then draw one more and let him connect again. Continue to take turns this way.
* Eraser play- gobs of shaped erasers for sorting, lining up, stacking, etc. (This is not a good idea for kiddos who like to explore with their mouths)
* Linking shapes or cubes (for linking, sorting, stacking and making patterns)
* Egg hunt – plastic Easter eggs for finding. They don’t even care if anything is in them.
* Paints and colors, of course.
* Baby nasal aspirator and ice cube tray. Our tray is the insert from an old Tupperware deviled egg carrier, but an ice cube tray would work just as well. You just put a little water in, color it if you wish, and teach them to transfer it from hole to hole.
* Paper punching. You fold a hand towel and put some construction paper on top. Hand the boy a skewer or toothpick and let him punch himself silly.
* Buttons and a “piggy bank can”. – buttons are good for sorting, but are also fun to drop into a can (from nuts, butter, yoghurt, etc) with a little slit cut in the top.
* Puppets, for a show.
* Toothpicks – I draw lines on paper, some horizontal, and some vertical and give him a bunch of toothpicks. He lays them on the lines. Good fine motor practice.
* What’s missing? – There’s a little plastic plate in the bag and a few random objects. Starting with about 3 objects, you put them on the plate, tell the little one to look very closely at them, then turn around. You take one object away. Then ask them to tell you what’s missing. As they get better, you can add more objects.
* Stamps and a washable stamp pad. He stamp a row, see how many it takes to go across the page, roll a die to and stamp that many, or just go crazy.
* A cup and straw. – Add in a little nontoxic soapy water, and let him blow and blow until bubbles are everywhere.
* Bean bags for tossing in a bowl or balancing on your head, or passing over and under.
And for the super adventurous days –
Buy the enormous bag of pinto beans or rice, and dump it in a big plasic bin. Throw in a funnel, spoons, cups, etc, for digging and pouring. It’s fun to hide stuff in the beans too. I’ve also hid things in a great vat of flour (it feels SOOOOOO good to stick your hands in it).
You can also spray a whole bunch of shaving cream on the table and let them draw with their fingers in it.
Okie dokie, that should keep him busy for a while!