Monday, April 2, 2012

Never too young or too old to enjoy creative play

I have been a work-at-home mom for a couple of months now with a lively two-year old in the house. Seriously, she's like the Energizer bunny. The second she wakes up it's like, boom, energy level through the roof. So in order for us to to manage this little bundle of energy, we've invested in tons of creative play tools for her to busy herself with during the day. And since we had a lot of play tools, we also needed a way to store them properly.

I initially bought an IKEA Trofast storage system for us to keep her play tools out of sight when not in use (see below, though the one I bought only accommodated three bins), but I realized later on it was better to just have them in plain sight where she could access them any time. Also since she tended to pull out the bins too quickly there was the constant danger of the bins falling on her whenever she opened them. And we didn't want that to happen. So that storage system eventually went to her younger sister, for storing Lamaze toys and soft books.

Eventually, she ended up with a storage space that looks like this.

This coffee table from IKEA used to be in front of our couch but we moved it towards the side of the TV to make way for our daughter's table/chair set. It then turned into a dedicated area for her play tools. 
This has all the materials any lively two-year old needs to keep her occupied.

1. Melissa and Doug Wooden blocks - This set of wooden blocks has letters and numbers printed on them (lower left hand corner of picture). Sometimes she plays around with just the cart, or she stacks the wooden blocks. She also has another set of colored wooden blocks just for stacking (upper left hand corner of picture).

2. Lamaze Stackable magnetic bugs - I wanted this to be her first set of stacking material but as it turned out she learned to stack the wooden blocks first before she played with this one. She doesn't play with it as much as the wooden blocks or her Legos though so this will probably pass on to her younger sister soon (upper left hand corner of picture).

3. Crayola Art smock - This is to prevent her from becoming too messy while doing art activities but since she deliberately puts paint on her face, hands and feet, the only thing this smock keeps paint off from are her clothes (upper left hand corner of picture).
4. Crayola Washable Paints, Markers and Crayons - Thank goodness for Crayola and their promise of washability. I don't use anything else. I tried using cheap and generic paints from a value store but it ended up costing me more since I couldn't get the resulting paint stains off my daughter's shirt (upper middle section of picture).

5. Alex Toys Foam Brush, Big PaintBrush, Crayola Paint Brushes, Paint Palette, Tape - We received the foam brushes from her Tita Jonet, bought a big paint brush and kept every paint brush that came with her Crayola washable paint sets. We initially bought the paint sets with the small tubs but realized she went through paints pretty fast so we started buying the larger size paint containers as well as a paint palette so we could ration out the paint. We also keep tape on hand when we tape down the paper to her table so she can paint (upper middle section of picture).

6. Stacking cups - This was given by her Tita Gigi and is quite a multi-purpose toy. She uses it for stacking, of course, but aside from that, it's also a water toy and a molding toy. It has holes at the bottom so when she scoops water, it has a trickling waterfall effect and the cup bottoms are actually molds of sea creatures so we've been using it when we play with clay as well (upper middle section of picture).

7. Homemade play clay with mold/cookie cutters - We just started playing with homemade play clay and I recently bought a set of numbers mold/cookie cutters from Carrefour so we could practice her numbers skills while playing. I also bought a set of molding tools from Soft Stuff at ELC which I feel is better for younger kids compared to the ones at Playdoh which are somewhat specialized and theme-based. The molds from Soft Stuff are just simple shapes (e.g. heart, duck, sun etc.) easily recognizable to toddlers (upper right hand section of picture).

Lexi with her new number molds

8. LEGO Duplo Building Blocks - This is the most basic set they have. Just blocks. No fancy houses or accessories yet. She's using it mainly for stacking. When she's a bit more advanced and shows signs of using it for pretend play (i.e. pretending it's a house or a dog or something), we might buy more in future (upper right hand corner of picture).

9. Shape Sorting Puzzles - We started her on shape sorting puzzles quite early. I think at 18 months. We started out with generic shape sorting puzzles, simple ones on farm animals, shapes, sea creatures and insects then we added more on letters and numbers, then colors and now she's doing dress matching puzzles as well (bottom right hand corner of picture)

10. Doodle board - This is a basic doodle board we bought at Toys'r'us and she uses it to practice her grip as well as to doodle and stamp (bottom right hand corner of picture).

11. Plastic gears - This was given by her Tita Jo and for such a simple toy, this is quite engaging. She likes to see how the wheels turn and she likes changing the gears as well. We've started to use the gears also as visual stimulation for her younger sister and I must say, this is quite hypnotic for babies as well (bottom middle section of picture).

12. IKEA Two-way easel - It has a chalkboard on one side and a whiteboard on the other. It also has a receptacle for chalk and another one for the paper roll. In hindsight, I would probably have bought the much more expensive Crayola easel where the whiteboard side is magnetic as well just so I get the additional function of using the magnetic whiteboard side for teaching her letters and numbers, using a magnetic letter and number set. 

Ikea Easel with Lexi's Wall of Art

I think it's quite noticeable that we don't have a lot of 'toy' toys as we believe it's much better for children to have more creative play tools rather than toys that have very specific and limited functions that they'll outgrow after some time. 

Another upside is that I'm also starting to like arts and crafts and really enjoying our painting and clay molding sessions as well. 

Maybe, I can have my own art wall as well. Who knows?

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