Salad Spinner and Blocks

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Items found in your home are some of the best toys to promote development in babies. Using a salad spinner and some blocks can create an activity that will help your baby search for objects, take the salad spinner apart, try to put it back together and older babies can try to spin the blocks inside using the knob. It is great to develop curiosity and cognitive skills. 

Always give your baby some time to explore a new object on their own first. This will help them develop focused attention and nurture their curiosity. Once they have taken the time to discover their new toy, play with them and repeat key words to help with their language development. Say "inside" when you or your baby place a block inside the spinner. "May I have a block?" and open your hand is another phrase you can use during this activity.

You can also start showing them how to share by giving them a block and saying "yours" then taking it back and saying "mine". 

Playing with cups

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I always have a few cups on hand for a spontaneous activity! They are fun to play with, simple and inexpensive. Stack them then smash them, stack them inside each other, hide objects in them, run around and kick them....the list goes on! 





Here is a short video demonstrating a baby exploring the cups. 


Getting children excited about activities

I love setting up a small "pop up" creative space for my baby. Painting, jewel sorting, motor activities etc. I let my 11 month old baby select what she wants to do and for how long she wants to. 


Age recommendation: Baby and toddler (you need to be with them for this activity and they should not be putting anything in their mouths given the small objects). 

Materials: Water paint, tape, paper, jewels or rocks, muffin tin, mason jar, water bottle, marbles. 

How to play:

  • I love the element of surprise. I love preparing these types of "pop up" play or creativity spaces when my daughter sleeps so that when she wakes up I can see her eye light up. I also enjoy seeing what she feels drawn to first and how she initiates her own play. How she explores new objects. 
  • Paint and Tape: We painted on some white paper and then added some tape on top (then my daughter painting on the tape as well).  
  • Jewels, muffin tin and Mason jar: For this activity, i game my baby both the Mason jar and muffin tin and demonstrated that she can place the jewels in either object. We sorted same colours together and I repeated the words "same" "different" "blue" to help with language development. 
  • Marbels and water bottle: I used this activity as a motor and coordination activity. I demonstrated how to place the marble into the small opening of the water bottle then allowed her to figure it out. 

Learning and development: At around 12 months, one of the cognitive milestones is that your child explores objects by shaking, banging or throwing them. They should also put things in a container and take them out. Lastly, around this age, they should follow simple directions such as "pick up the marble". 

Spatula Hockey

A ball is always a fun item to play with. I was trying to think of a new activity my son could play and since he loves using a rubber spatula I thought that combining these might be fun...and it was!


Age recommendation: Baby, toddler. 

Materials: Spatula or wooden spoon (one for your baby and one for you!) and a small ball. 

How to play

  • If your baby is not walking yet but is able to sit, just sit in front of them and hit the ball gently with a spatula to pass them the ball. You can hold their hand with the spatula or let them figure it out on their own. Repeat some action words for language development such as "ball" (while pointing to it) and "hit the ball" (as you hit the ball). 
  • With a baby that is able to walk, have then hit the ball with their spatula as they walk. You can dedicate a space in the room as the "goal" or have them keep hitting it until they get to the other side of the room. Walk around with them and hit the ball as well! Encourage them to chase the ball a little as well. 
  • With a toddler/preschooler, you can have 2 "goals" place on opposite sides of the room and run rather than walk, trying to score in each others goal. You can even have a score board and first person to get 5 goals wins. Have your child add a sticker or a dot to a scoreboard and help them count to 5. 

Learning and Development: This activity focuses on coordination. Around 18 months, a baby should run a little (according to the CDC milestones). This is a wonderful activity to encourage this. At 18 months, they should also understand 1-step verbal demands such as "hit the ball". 

Colourful rice activity

Which child doesn't enjoy the colors of the rainbow! This activity was lots of fun! It was mess free since the rice gets "painting" in a Ziplock so my baby was able to join us in the fun.


Age recommendation: Any age as long as your baby does not put this in their mouths. You need to monitor them as they play.

Materials: Rice (we used Basmati), Ziplocks, Tempera Paint, large tray and container.

How to play: Full instructions along with a video can be found on The Imagination Tree website. 

Learning and Development: This is mostly a discover and play activity. It is a great sensory activity for young children. I added some small animals along with fine motor tools from Learning Resources and trucks (not seen in picture). These types of activities are wonderful to help build concentration skills in children. They are calming and allow parents to "take a breathe" (as long as you get used to the mess some create!). If you want to work on executive function skills, you can ask your child to guide you into some imaginary play with the animal figurines. Is the rice their food? Is it their home? Allow your child to decide what role you play. If they create a scenario (i.e. the giraffe ate the lion's food), you can even ask them how your "animal" should react. This will help them build emotional awareness and self-regulation skills as well. 


Edible Paint

I was excited to introduce my daughter to painting. She was about 9 months old and I found this wonderful activity in the book called 150+ Screen Free Activities for Kids by Asia Citro. My daughter painted a little then ate the rest of it...I was glad it was made from Greek Yogurt! 


Age recommendation: Baby (as long as they can eat dairy)

Materials: Plain Greek Yogurt, recipe calls for Kool-Aid packets but I used food colouring, small containers and paper (used my roll of paper from IKEA) and a plastic table cloth from the dollar store to cover your floor (you might want to place a bib on your baby as well!)

How to play

  • Decide how many colours you would like, then divid your yogurt into a few bowls depending on how many colours you will be using. With very young babies I suggest only a little yogurt (2-3 spoons per bowl) since from experience it will all end up on their clothes or in their mouths! 
  • Add a few drops of food colouring and stir until you get the desired colour.
  • Lay some paper out.
  • You can either finger paint or use paint brushes. Start by showing your baby what to do. You can also take their hand and dip it in the paint and show them how to spread it across the paper. 
  • For some older children (12-24 months) you can also paint using an easel since this upright position is important for motor skills and writing skills. 

Learning and Development: The 9 month CDC milestones state that a baby should be able to point at something. This activity allows your abby to practice this. You can get them to keep their finger out and show them to dab their paint in different locations of the paper. This is more of a sensory and arts activity. Allow them to explore the texture and give them time to create any work of art! 



Taping objects to a platter

This was an activity I was able to do with both my baby and toddler. I asked my toddler to tape various objects that I gave her and asked my baby to remove the tape to get the object back. 


Age recommendation: Baby or toddler. Simply change the goal you set out depending on their age

Materials: Tape (I used electrical tape), small objects such as toy cars/trucks, popsicle sticks, crayons and objects from the kitchen. You don't want the objects to be too think or wide. 

How to play:

  • First you need to pre-cut your pieces of tape if your child is too young to do this.
  • Prepare small objects and let your child decide which they would like to tape to the tray.
  • Ask your child to tape the objects themselves, or again, if they are too young you can do this step as well. Always try it out with them first, see if you can teach them how to tape the objects as well if they never tried it before. 
  • If you have a small baby or young child that is learning how to speak, use action words such as "pull" and demonstrate how to pull the tape off. 

Learning and Development: The CDC 18 month milestones states that a child should point to something they want. This is why in this activity, we lay out all the objects and ask them which one they want to tape. Once they are all taped, you can continue building their language by asking them which one they will remove. Point to one and ask "Do you want this one?" then nod or shake you head while saying "yes" or "no". At around 18 months, a child should say and shake their head for "no". This activity also helps build their attention skills. Let them play with this activity to see how long they stay focused. Don't worry if it is only a few minutes, don't forget they are still young and building these skills!