Thursday, July 26, 2018

Educational Activity with Play Dough & Beads (toddler-early elementary)

Back before my daughter was born, I killed it with the creative fun, educational activities for my son.  Now that I have two I mostly just try to find some way to keep them both busy so I can go pee for a second alone (keep dreaming Kelsie...).  I feel bad that I don't have the same thriving creative environment that I had before so I'm always looking for easy activities that work for both kids at their very different skill levels.

I'm guessing you might be interested in this too, so let me share with you my FAVORITE "go-to" activity.  Whenever I need to keep their hands and minds occupied, this always works. It's a winner for them and for me!  The best part?  There are so many different ways to play it, that it creates a stimulating learning environment for everyone from very young toddlers all the way to early elementary aged kiddos.

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Here's all you need:
- Play-Doh
- Spaghetti Noodles (uncooked)
- Pony Beads (mixed colors)
- Letter Beads (for older kids)

The concept is so simple, you won't believe how much the kids will love it! Simply take Play-Doh and smoosh it into a sort of biscuit shaped lump.  Then grab your uncooked spaghetti noodles, break them in half (or keep them tall for extra stacking ability!) and shove the ends down into your play dough.

Next you set out your beads and let the kids have at it!  If you think your little one might throw an entire container of beads all over the floor, set out just a few into a smaller cup.  (We like to use these  Silicone Baking Cups for times like this but any little cup will do) Remember: beads are choking hazards. It's always a good idea to keep an eye on kiddos while they play with small beads, especially if they put things in their mouths!

My almost 4 year old likes to take extra noodles and create elaborate works of art.  He also really enjoys using the letter beads to make words and names. My 1.5 year old just enjoys stacking the beads in random order.

{look at those final motor skills at work!}

So what can they do besides stack?

Here's a list of EIGHT different ways to use this activity to meet the needs of a variety of skill levels (each black stick on the images is a spaghetti noodle):

The most basic level is simply stacking the beads in random color order. This helps young kiddos work on their fine motor skills, concentration and associates them with the different colors and textures involved.

Next up is letting them stack by color.  This helps them see different shades and teaches them to identify the different colors.

A little more advanced is patterns. Let them make up their own or give them a pattern to follow (for example: pink, green, pink, green, repeat)

If you have a variety of Shapes Beads, have your kiddo stack according to shape.  You can also have them do "patterns" like the above option but with shapes instead of different colors.

This activity is also a great visual for learning how to count. Being able to physically put on the beads themselves helps young kiddos recognize how many "2" is, or how "3" is more than "1".

After they've mastered numbers, you can use the noodles lined up to help them visualize and practice addition.

...and subtraction.

My son is a big fan of Letter Beads (basically anything letters) right now. I like to do this activity with him as he learns the letter sounds and how to make words.  The only tricky part about this is that you have to put the beads on in reverse order!  So I like to have him make the word flat on the table, then he can "build it" when he's done.

This is one of the kids' favorite activities to play and I love that it's not just mindless entertainment.  Not only that, they actually get to practice their fine motor skills, colors, patterns, shapes, math and spelling! Whew... that's a lot for one easy little thing.  Can you think of anything else they could learn by playing this? I'd love to hear your ideas and see you using this at home or even in your daycare/preschool settings!  Please share any photos you have on my facebook page, as I love seeing my ideas being used by others!

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