I was recently visiting with my next door neighbor as we watched the kids play. She has a two-year-old daughter and like many mothers of toddlers is on the look-out for activities that will keep her daughter busy. My friend knows I use containers filled with rice or beans to help keep my children busy. We got to talking about how to make this type of activity work for toddlers. The trick is to use sorting objects that are not going to be choking hazards. Frankly, I kind of avoided this activity until my kids’ compulsion to taste everything they touched subsided. It was later than you think.
Also, although this seems odd, I wouldn’t recommend using beans in the container if the activity is for toddlers. Maybe it’s just my toddlers, but beans can get lodged in orifices. Rice is a lot less likely to get stuck somewhere unpleasant. In any case, here’s some sorting objects that might work for your kids.
Good objects to start out with would be the large-sized Legos (like these Ultimate LEGO DUPLO Building Set). These Legos can be sorted by color or by size. This can also be a good way to support learning colors. Obviously, any other large-sized block will work. These Legos were just really popular with Dylan and Anya.
I would also suggest trying some silverware in the rice. Again, it’s big enough to not be a choking hazard. Also, the differences between forks, spoons, and butter knives are apparent enough that sorting will be relatively straightforward for a beginner. As your toddler gets better at sorting you can add in the two different sizes of spoons. My kids got experienced enough with this that by the time they were three, I had them unload the silverware from the dishwasher for me and put it away. I’d pull out all the unsafe utensils, set the silverware basket on the counter, scoot a chair up to the drawer, and let them be mommy’s helper. It was great! They are a lot less enthusiastic about it now, but it was good while it lasted.
Other things that may work depending on your toddler:
- Assortment of large, unshelled tree nuts (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, etc.)
- Barrettes or hair bows
- Straws (sort by color or cut up and then sort by length)
- Large pompom balls
- Other small toys like matchbox cars or action figures
Do you have any other suggestions on helping toddlers learn about sorting and practice fine motor skills? What’s working for your kids?