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I’m a mom to twin toddler boys. They are full of life; active, energetic, and busy. They’re 14 months old and it’s been a fabulous ride observing their interests, patterns in behaviors and skill levels. They’re vastly different from one another and despite the learning differences and interests, I try to figure out their commonalities when I’m designing activities for them. I examine the contents, form, function, and design. I’ve experimented with wood, baskets, trays, and bowls. I’ve concluded that both find brass, silver trays and see-thru transparent containers are most appealing to them. With my Montessori lens I try to step into their shoes and analyze why. They like shiny, reflective and items that allow them to see the contents. I imagine it’s also the sounds they hear when items hit the edge of the tray or the coldness of the metal against their hands.

So knowing my boys, I’m always scouting for items at Target, garage sales, thrift stores, etc. The hunting never ends and frankly, it’s the hunt that I’m enticed by, well that and of course being challenged.

One very warm day in CA, had me searching for a safe way for my boys to play. In walking distance to my home are tennis courts. It’s  fenced in, clean and quite…a mommas perfect place for toddler twins (a sanctuary). On this particular day, I spotted empty tennis ball cans on the park bench.  It was as though the cans were speaking to me and said, “Turn me into something.” They were transparent and perfect for lil hands. And so, for the thirty minutes my crazy boys exerted their energy, my gears started turning! 

29 minutes later,  I miraculously shuffled two kids, 8 empty cans, a backpack and toys up a flight of stairs and walked 50 yards. Needless to say, when  a mom is determined, and excited she finds a way. I got my boys to nap and in a frantic furry, I anxiously and excitedly got moving! I ended up creating activities I could introduce immediately along with future activities because I’m a big picture thinker and thinking about the possibilities never ends.

In my possession was 8 empty tennis ball cans. It was pure nirvana (I know I’m weird). I first went to my bins.

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You might be wondering, ‘Where does she begin?’ When I’m creating for my boys or my students I evaluate their skill level, needs and interests. My youngest tends to do a slap and dig motion with items like a puppy digging in dirt. My goal was to create an activity that would help him develop control of movement and use of a steady hand. Even in utero his startle reflux was insane (Yes, it was a very tough pregnancy). Second, seeming as they both have in interest in blocks, I wanted to create an activity that combined Donald’s needs with their interest. I grabbed color electrical tape and taped it vertically. I then cut velcro; I placed the rough side on the container and soft side on the block. This took 10 minutes to put together. 

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The results were better than I expected. It turned out to be a good challenge for both boys and held their attention for an extensive amount of time. I’ll be able to redemonstrate this lesson when they’re older as a color sorting work. To me, this is a bonus! And perhaps at around 4.5, I can number the blocks to put in order. I sure would like to insert a happy emoji here!

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Even though my husband doesn’t put me on a budget, it makes me feel good knowing I can create activities that hold their attention longer than commercial toys while reusing items found in my home…a double win! I don’t have much time so putting together functional and engaging activities with items found in my home are a must. This could be used as a reinforcer in ABA or as a shoebox task! The possibilities are endless

I had 50 minutes to spare. Next, I looked thru my bins of extra stuff and for some reason number sorting using magnetic numbers came to my immediate mind. It took 3 minutes to make and cost $2. Magnets from the thrift store and stickers from Dollar Tree. The twins are obviously too young, but one day this will call to them! If it doesn’t, I’ll do it, because in my mind it evokes “I want to do it!” For older learners they can sort and then graph. I can also see comparing greater than and less than. Hmmmm… the possibilities are endless! 

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I had forty-five minutes of creative bliss to go, so I thought about what I’d like to work on with the boys and that’s color sorting. I quickly grabbed color tape, extra balls from their ball pit and in two minutes I had color sorting. 

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The clock continued ticking. My boys typically sleep an hour in the afternoon so I had 40 minutes and noninterrupted time and I wasn’t going to let a minute go to waste. This is my equivalent of going to a day spa if you haven’t guessed by now!   

I looked on my children’s shelf with activities displayed and saw a basket of red items used for exploring that weren’t getting any use. To the left of that work was a tray with different lids intended for opening and closing, a fine motor activity. Both activities had not been used in two weeks so I thought, “Hey, why not include both?” I inserted the red items into the container and it turned out better than I expected. 

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I quickly grabbed items that were larger in size. I do have to watch my youngest closely as he’s oral and is first to put items in his mouth. I gathered something soft, items with ridges, something smooth, something made of wood.

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I watched my lil guy and realized that this could be used to play an I Spy game, or it could be used as an open and close activity. For my toddlers, it was perfect and at their level. This took 3 minutes to prepare. 

An activity l’ve been thinking about is an initial sound activity with objects. No need for flash cards…just objects with the same beginning sound. Although I did find an old flashcard set and decided to split the set up to make the activity more interesting. This took 3 minutes. I reused a container and collected objects and have them stored in labeled zip lock bags. It’s moments like these that I’m thankful for being organized! This took another few minutes to gather the materials. I have yet to show it to the boys. Something tells me they’ll be screaming for more (they will in fact scream for more). 

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Last but not least, this activity requires a hole punch on Mardi Gra beads. If you don’t have beads, you can find them at Dollar Tree. They feel great in one’s hands! My boys are too young for this activity, but when their fingers are ready, I’m certain they’ll enjoy the challenge of placing the beads thru the holes! It’ll require concentration, hand eye coordination and a steady hand! 

I hope this post inspires you and you feel inclined to give one of the activities a try. If and when you do, I encourage you to study you’re kiddo in the process. If it’s too difficult, assist without using words, or limit the number of items to prevent frustration. Your goal is to make learning fun, so they’ll want to return to it without prompting! 

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